Documentary Film Review: Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life

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There is something of an innocent quality strewn through Tomer Heymann’s latest documentary venture, which ultimately contrasts the film’s stark subject matter. Jonathan Agassi is the wunderkind of gay porn, an incredibly desirable but ultimately provocative star of adult movies who, at his height, was considered one of the greatest actors in porn. However, with fame comes a cost, especially within an industry that is built on controversy. With Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life, Heymann offers an intimate portrait of a powerful figure in a taboo industry, presenting audiences with a unique duality: the underground world of adult entertainment, juxtaposed with the domesticity of Agassi’s home life. Balancing the extremes of his career at its peak, all the while still able to return to his mother for dinner.


“Jonathan Agassi saved my life. He’s a character that takes over me whenever I need help and he’s always on my side.” Those are some opening words from the man himself. Agassi is the performance persona of Yonatan Langer, but that name just didn’t have the same electricity for him. In the world of porn, he must appear powerful, aloof and most importantly, desirable. Here, porn is presented almost as a theatrical profession – as ordinary as any other job. Over the course of 8 years, we see boundaries blur as Heymann chronicles Agassi’s turbulent life, following a star so charismatic his films even got the attention of mainstream media. Moving from country to country for shoots and escort work – Berlin, London, Tel Aviv – Agassi at times claims he has the best job in the world. He loves sex and is good at what he does. Seemingly able to manipulate the industry itself to his will and never letting anyone take more than what he chooses to give. He is a builder of the fantasy. But it soon becomes apparent that this is not the case. Years go by, and the world he knows changes and becomes more turbulent with every shoot and every side hustle.

The film reaches its soaring emotional heights when Agassi is with his mother. Familial expectations are thrown out the window, and what would often be something of a contentious subject for most families is in fact embraced by Agassi’s mother, who, while still insisting her son should buy a coat as well as leather trousers with unexpected holes in, supports her son in his endeavours. Fluctuating seamlessly between the mundanity of home life and the extreme sexual environs, Heymann’s documentary gives rise to some evocative motifs. One moment Agassi performs in a live sex show, being groped and prodded by a leering audience. The next, he is sat at the table, eating a meal his mother has made him. However, for every ounce of love a mother has for her son, there is the omniscient presence of Agassi’s father, who abandoned the family when he was a child. The most harrowing scene of the film, for me, doesn’t come from any of the adult content. Instead, it is a long awaited meeting between Agassi and his father: something that is built up, evidentially for years, and delivers an incredibly emotional blow that rivals any of its touchy subject matter.

Photo by Addie Reiss

The Verdict

The way in which the documentary depicts pornography treads a fine line between glamorising and condemning such a divisive world. It is equally hailed by some as a career based on the control of one’s sexuality, but nevertheless comes at a cost of exploitation, denunciation and of course the toll on the actor’s physical and mental well-being. Agassi’s time in the porn industry is one that has reached the highest highs – the full experience of what it is like to be the most desirable person in one’s field – and the tremendous lows it brings with it. What Heymann does here is provide an intrinsic and harshly real balance of the highs and lows this world has to offer and how it has impacted one of its best.

The nuanced theme of cinematernity explored in the film, particularly the mother/son relationship, is something of particular interest to me in regards to my own academic endeavours. While, of course, the primary focus is on Agassi’s pornographic career, the real story is the relationship with his mother – how, even during the lowest moments of the film, Agassi can always return to her as a guiding force in his life, pointing him the direction that will make him the happiest and supporting him whenever he needs.  Heymann delivers a stunningly shot and deeply intimate documentary that, while shocking at times, provides an insight into the human psyche and the limits it can be pushed to. Jonathan Agassi’s life is a unique one indeed, and is a story that shouldn’t be missed.

Rating: 8/10

Words by Jack Roberts

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