Etyan Fox’s 2002 film Yossi & Jagger has become a bit of a gay fave, and now 10 years later he catches up with one of the title characters in Yossi. The earlier movie followed two men in the Israeli army who fall in love against a backdrop of a military that doesn’t look favourably of gay liaisons. Now Yossi (Ohad Knoller) is a doctor in a hospital, leading a rather lonely, solitary life that revolves around his work, internet porn and looking for one night stands (that don’t always go well).
He’s never really gotten over what happened with Jagger, and finds himself feeling particularly lost after his old lover’s mother comes into the hospital for a check-up. Yossi decides to go on holiday to the dangerous area around the Sinai Peninsula, but before he gets there ends up giving four young army lads a lift. He ends up staying at the same resort as the young men and slowly strikes up a friendship with one of them, the handsome Tom (Oz Zehavi), but his lack of self-esteem means he cannot see that perhaps the young man is interested in something more.
There’s a rather melancholy air that hangs around Yossi, going deep into the life of a man’s who may help other people as a doctor but is almost tangential as a person. Even as some form of connection to the rest of humanity is presented to him, he’s so lost touch that he can barely see or trust it. But despite the melancholy feel to Yossi, there’s also a sense of hope and possibility brought by Tom, who’s openly gay in the military, something that wasn’t possible for Yossi.
It certainly helps if you’ve seen the earlier movie, as while Yossi works as a stand-alone movie, there’s definitely more to get out of it if you know Yossi & Jagger. That’s particularly true of the early stages when Yossi is trying to connect with Jagger’s mother and you realise how he’s still haunted by his old love. It also makes you realise that Tom doesn’t just represent a fresh chance for Yossi, but is essentially everything he couldn’t have when he was young – and exactly why he doesn’t think he could have that now.
It’s an involving and moving film, although on the downside there’s an awful lot of build-up for not a lot of pay-off. Although this isn’t fatal because it works all the way through as a character study, it’s difficult not to wish it was a little more climactic. Even something as simple as foreshadowing Yossi’s particular hang-ups in the bedroom would have helped.
The film is helped enormously by Ohad Knoller who gives a tremendously heartfelt performance in the title role. Almost from the moment he comes on screen your heart goes out to this man who seems so lost that he doesn’t even realise there’s any other way to live but the edge of depression. Ohad Knoller is also good, helped by a cute face and great body, as well as an attitude that’s smart and committed. His character gives an interesting edge to the film that many will recognise, where Yossi makes assumptions about the younger man – such as that he’ll only be interested in who looks good on his arm, and that Tom could not see him as anything other than an old codger. In many cases he would be right, but not with this particular man.
Overall Verdict: A sweet, sad and yet hopeful characters study, and a successful follow-up up to a modern gay favourite.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac