Film Review: Yossi

A dramatically challenging sequel, given warmly effective heart and soul by lead actor Ohad Knoller.
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Eytan Fox’s Yossi & Jagger was one of the most shatteringly powerful gay films ever made. The film’s ending left Yossi (Ohad Knoller) alone after the death of his soldier lover, Jagger, and for anyone who ever wondered what happened to him, Yossi provides the answer.
Fox picks up the story ten years later and finds Yossi now a cardiologist in Tel Aviv, who buries himself in work and is a in a terminally depressed, emotionally cut-off state. The despair of everyone around him, his romantic-sexual outlets express themselves in online porn and often soulless, anonymous Internet hook-ups.

Fox is indeed fortunate in having Knoller reprise his role of Yossi for, in the hands of any other actor, this gloom-laden, Mahler-listening character may well have been insufferable, such an indefatigable downer is he. He refuses to listen to the life-loving blandishments of his fellow doctor, Moti (the suavely appealing Lior Ashkenazi), whom he secretly desires, and instead sets off on a road trip to volatile Sinai. This he does, incidentally, after sadly spurning the advances of another female co-worker and, ever the one to spread good cheer, visiting Jagger’s mourning parents to inform them of their secret relationship, news which goes down like another air strike.

Throughout, Knoller manages to grip your attention and empathy. In a disastrous online dating encounter, when a sleek A-list-type gay derides him physically for being old and overweight, his stoic yet bereft reaction is simply heartbreaking.

Things lift considerably when Yossi reaches Sinai and encounters a group of soldiers he gives a ride to. One of them, Tom (Oz Zehavi, good and sexy), seems far more simpatico than the other roughnecks and, amazingly—but this is, after all, a movie—seems just as attracted to Yossi as our protagonist is to him. After all that suffering, Fox gives his hero the most idyllic of happy endings, and if it seems too far-fetched or happy to you, please see E.M. Forster’s Maurice.

Fox’s skills as a filmmaker, forever boldly tackling gay subject matter, have grown considerably through the years and he maintains a sure hand over the emotionally fraught material. Yossi is extremely simply shot, taking full advantage of the arid, visual beauty of the desert, yet this very simplicity accentuates the quiet power of the story and, for all his immobile moroseness, it is indeed good to have Yossi back.