Eytan Fox is Israel's foremost chronicler of gay life-- and the homoeroticized military. With Yossi, he has pulled off the rare feat of making a sequel that surpasses the original. Released in 2002, the director's breakthrough hit Yossi & Jagger centered on the clandestine relationship between two male Israel Defense Force soldiers: Following an ambush in Lebanon, Yossi, a principled yet deeply closeted commander, watches the more flamboyant Jagger (a nickname that suits his pop-star good looks) die in his arms. Ten years later, Yossi powerfully probes the grief that still consumes the surviving ex-soldier, now working as a physician in Tel Aviv. Like the title character, Fox has changed. This frequently unsubtle director here shows welcome signs of nuance. Still-closeted Yossi (Ohad Knoller) finds comfort in greasy takeout noodles and DVDs of man-on-man soft-core. He endures demeaning treatment from an online date, an oily bar-owning muscle queen clearly disgusted that the doctor doesn't match his much-slimmer profile photo. The discordance may surprise--and move--viewers, too: Significantly bulkier than he was in Yossi & Jagger (and in The Bubble), Knoller moves with the weariness of someone burdened by shame and sorrow. He navigates his role so beautifully-- Yossi always maintains some dignity-- that, perversely, the new love interest who shares screen time with him in the final act feels like an interloper, a forceful intrusion into a delicately built study of anguish and the difficulty of reconciling the past with the future. To wish Yossi anything but a happy ending would be heartless. Yet to wrap up his story so glibly still stings, betraying the complexity we've come to love him for.
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