Yossi: Film Review

Featuring a superb performance by Ohad Knoller, this poignant sequel exerts a quiet emotional power.

Eytan Fox's sequel chronicles the aftermath of his 2002 drama about the doomed romance between two Israeli soldiers.

The title character of Eytan Fox’s Yossi hasn’t fared well in the 10 years since he made his first onscreen appearance in 2002’s Yossi and Jagger, about the doomed romance between two Israeli soldiers. Having lost his lover in the battlefield at the end of the previous film, Yossi (Ohad Knoller) now gained weight and settled into a routine of takeout food and pornography while tirelessly working as a cardiologist in Tel Aviv. This sensitively wrought sequel depicts his emotional rebirth.

Yossi’s clearly unlucky in love, as awkward encounters with a female nurse who doubts his sexuality and a male colleague who attempts to enlist him in a threesome with a woman demonstrate. Then, after a chance encounter with his late lover’s mother that prompts him to confess his past relationship with her son, he impulsively decides to travel to a resort city for some much needed R&R.

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Along the way he encounters a quartet of Israeli soldiers who have missed their bus and take him up on his offer of a ride. As it happens, one of them, the handsome Tom (Oz Zehavi) is openly gay, and unlike his compatriots he recognizes that Yossi is as well. His casual attempts at seduction, and Yossi’s gradual thawing of his resistance, form the heart of the film.

Although occasionally succumbing to clichés—Yossi spends his time alone at the pool reading Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, of all things—the film is nonetheless moving in its quiet depiction of its central character’s internal struggles. Yes, it borders on fantasia at times, with the much-younger would-be lover pursuing the reluctant Yossi with a doggedness that wouldn’t be out of place in the most formulaic romantic comedy. But the filmmaker, who has made a specialty out of chronicling gay themes in such films as The Bubble and Walk on Water, manages to invest the material with a quiet forcefulness.

His ace in the hole is Knoller, who expertly manages to make his character compelling even at his most withdrawn and sullen. The extra weight that the actor has packed on gives him an air of vulnerability that makes his character’s ultimate emergence from his seemingly impenetrable emotional shell all the more moving.

Cast: Ohad Knoller, Lior Ashkenazi, Orly Silbersatz, Oz Zehavi, Ola Schur Selektar.

Director: Eytan Fox.

Screenplay: Itay Segal.

Producers: Moshe Edry, Leon Edry, Amir Harel, Eytan Fox, Ayelet Kait.

Director of Photography: Guy Raz.

Editor: Yosef Grunfeld.

Production designer: Mor Barak.

Costume designers: Mira Karmely, Chen Carmi.

Composer: Keren Ann.

Not rated, 84 min.