Eytan Fox’s immensely enjoyable new film Yossi could just as easily have been
called “How Yossi Got His Groove Back.” It’s a sequel to his acclaimed 2002 film
Yossi & Jagger, and it’s a worthy but very different follow-up to that
Fox more or less began the New Wave in Israeli films a decade ago
with Yossi & Jagger, which was ground-breaking not only because of its
subject matter – a romance between two male IDF combat soldiers stationed in the
North – but because it was a love story, both comic and tragic, about two
quirky, believable human beings, and not a political film.
enjoyed Yossi & Jagger will be pleased to see Ohad Knoller as Yossi again,
although, from the opening scene, it’s clear that it hasn’t been easy since he
lost Jagger (Yehuda Levy) at the end of the previous film. Yossi is now a doctor
in a Tel Aviv hospital, but while his professional identity may be established,
the rest of his life has remained incomplete since his lover died. He is still
in the closet, something he firmly insisted on when Jagger was alive (and which
made Jagger’s death awkward and isolating, as well as painful, since no one knew
they were lovers). But in present-day Tel Aviv, his refusal to let people know
who he really is just makes his life more complicated. He can’t tell a nurse who
is crazy about him that he’s not interested in her, and even with his manic
colleague Moti (Lior Ashkenazi), he can’t bring himself to open up.
seems to have aged 20 years in a single decade. All the opening scenes – in the
hospital, Yossi’s apartment, and a Tel Aviv bar – are harshly lit and
oppressive. Yossi longs for love and intimacy, but watching cheesy gay porn or
going on dates with guys he meets online are no help. A chance meeting with
Jagger’s mother (Orly Silbersatz) shakes him up, intensifying his memories and
grief. After he makes a careless mistake at work, he is ordered to take some of
the vacation time he’s been saving up.
As he drives south en route to
Sinai, he meets a group of soldiers who have missed their bus to Eilat and gives
them a ride. But while they make fun of his taste in music (too old for them),
he begins to be drawn into their group. He can’t help being fascinated by Tom
(Oz Zehavi), who is as comfortable being gay in a group of straight men as he is
being gorgeous. The heart of the movie is Yossi’s tentative attraction to this
young soldier. It isn’t a love story in the conventional sense; it’s not about
whether or not they will end up together but about how Yossi begins to reconnect
to the world. Yossi’s incremental return to himself is nicely mirrored by the
beauty of the Eilat landscape, the luxury of the hotel and the richly colored
gaudiness of a floor show.
Yossi’s story is one that virtually everyone
will be able to relate to.
While the film lacks the urgency of its
predecessor, which took some of its drama from the military conflict that was
its backdrop, it reflects the way its protagonist’s life has changed from facing
death to learning how to live.
There are some extremely strong and
memorable individual scenes, such as Yossi’s date from hell, that work
The film is called Yossi, and it is Knoller’s movie from
start to finish.
One of Israel’s most gifted actors – you may know him as
Nati from the television series Srugim or as the bomb disposal officer in Joseph
Cedar’s Beaufort – he inhabits the character so completely, that you’ll forget
you’ve ever seen him in any other role. He doesn’t shrink from making Yossi
frustratingly selfabsorbed and unattractive when the script demands it. All the
actors, including Zehavi, Israel’s newest heartthrob, are excellent, but Knoller
brings the story to life.
Itay Segal’s script and Eytan Fox’s direction
let the plot unfold through moments, gestures and glances, as well as words.
Music is always important in Fox’s films, and here Keren Ann performs a lovely
Israeli films have become so important in recent years, it’s good
to see a movie like Yossi, which is a reminder that movies can be both
thought-provoking and fun.
Directed by Eytan Fox.
Written Itay Segal.
Hasippur shel Yossi.
Running time: 96 minutes In Hebrew. Check theaters
for subtitle information.