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.
Eytan FoxYehuda Levi, Assi Cohen, Ohad Knoller, Aya Steinovitz, Hani FurstenbergAvner BernheimerAmir Harel, Gal UchovskyStrand Releasing