Runtime: 106 Minutes
Director: Tomer Heymann
Writer: Tomer Heymann
Star: Jonathan Agassi
By Mique Watson
“I don’t feel anything”, Jonathan (Yonatan Langer, also known as the internationally-recognized porn star Jonathan Agassi) laments at the end of the film, having ostensibly reached an all-time low. He is broken, sick, depressed, numb, and addicted to drugs. He’s also a hardcore gay pornstar who does some escorting on the side. This documentary (by Tomer Heymann) establishes early on that porn is about building a fantasy and attempting to break the fourth wall. Here, we scratch the surface of Yonatan’s psyche; we learn that despite all the supposed fun that keeps pornstars like him busy, he seems terribly dissatisfied.
Early on in the film, we see Yonatan performing sex acts in front of an audience (with his pornstar name, Jonathan Agassi) with a group of other nude men. Now, the concept of pornography has been debated for centuries–is porn art? Can porn ever be art? Regardless of what you think of pornography–you may love it, you may find it sickening–there is certainly some curiosity to be had regarding just what would motivate someone to make a living off being viewed performing sex acts for the pleasure of other people.
“This documentary is not a porno–and it unabashedly deals with the consequences of the lifestyle depicted on-screen.”
You also probably have to wonder what kind of freedom there is for a pornstar in an industry wherein people commodify other people for their pleasure. It’s quite the Orwellian concept: slavery is freedom etc. Questions like these are what filmmaker Tomer Heymann seeks to probe in this documentary, “Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life”.
What’s so unique about this film is perhaps its depiction of male vulnerability and the consequences of abject desire which are showcased here. Yonatan is never glorified here; he’s shown happy in both his personal and professional life at first, yet in the end–when everything is said–he is wretchedly unhappy. This documentary makes a life of nonstop orgasms, sex with the world’s most attractive men, and drugs on the side look and feel absolutely gross. This documentary is not a porno–and it unabashedly deals with the consequences of the lifestyle depicted on-screen.
It is sympathetic to Yonatan and never frames him as a bad person. Instead, we see him as someone who has come from a bad place. We wonder if his unconventional lifestyle has come as a consequence of some daddy issues which are hinted at early on in a call with his mother. It is revealed then that his father had abandoned him and his brother when they were children.Later, it is revealed that his father was extremely an abusive, homophobic, gaslighting, pathological liar. His father forced him to perform sex acts with a much older woman at the age of just 12 (with disgusting photos to prove it). He actually meets his father toward the end of the film…and it goes just as “well” as one would expect. His own dad has the gall to tell him–on camera–that he was an accident. He also lies about the context of Yonatan’s mother’s depression in such a way that places the blame on Yonatan; we learn afterwards, from his mother, that this is simply untrue
“This documentary makes a life of nonstop orgasms, sex with the world’s most attractive men, and drugs on the side look and feel absolutely gross…It is sympathetic to Agassi and never frames him as a bad person. Instead, we see him as someone who has come from a bad place.”
Even more distressing to see is that whenever Yonatan reaches a point of unbearable stress, he “sinks into himself” and passes out. “Jonathan Agassi”, he says, is a character–first and foremost–that takes over him whenever he needs help. The character, to him, is a coping mechanism that helps him separate himself from himself and remain detached whenever films his pornographic scenes.
He is very open to his mother about his career. One of the more lighthearted scenes in this doc shows him and his mother watching his porn together–the scene goes on longer than expected, and just as I was about to clutch my pearls, he stops the clip before the sex begins. I don’t care how close one is with his/her parents–there are just some things that even the most liberal, open-minded parents should not see.
“[this] is a powerful warning for society–how the people who we commodify for our pleasure are, at the end of the day, human beings just like us.”
We’re also made privy to the heights of success Yonatan has reached in the industry, with his pornographic film “Men of Israel”, produced by Michael Lucas, being one of the most successful productions of the company. It is noted that audiences take to Yonatan because they like how he never comes off as fake or forced; because he always looks completely natural with the sexual ingenuity and unpredictability he brings to his scenes, and the chemistry he has with his partners.
Despite all this success and the fact that his work allows him to take his mother to lovely locales (a particularly charming scene shows both of them vacationing in Greece, a loving mother-son duo), his personal life is certainly no fairy tale. As a child, he had dealt with bullying and homophobia; his family finds it hard to swallow the fact that he escorts (he tells them not to conflate escorting with prostitution; it doesn’t help); and, he gradually gets more dependent on hard drugs. In spite of his instability, he has to be a breadwinner due to how his mother struggles to make ends meet.
This documentary isn’t sexy by any means; it’s sad. It ends on a somewhat uplifting note–but one can only suspect that the damage has already been done. I knew nothing about Jonathan Agassi prior to seeing this–and now that I have, I feel like he’s someone I’ve met and gotten the chance to chat with. I do wish him the best, yet the trauma on display here is one that will probably haunt him for a very long time. Having so much sex to the point of being numb; having these sex acts readily accessible to anyone with a mere click of a button/tap of a screen… something most people can’t fathom and the reasoning behind it is explored in great detail here. Perhaps, if anything, this is a powerful warning for society–how the people who we commodify for our pleasure are, at the end of the day, human beings just like us.
Rating: Four and a half out of Five Stars
JONATHAN AGASSI SAVED MY LIFE is released by Peccadillo Pictures and comes to DVD & VOD on 18 November