Yossi is Eytan Fox’s sequel to Yossi and Jagger, which I have never written about despite seeing it a few months ago – I will write about both here.
Like all of Eytan Fox’s famous films, this stars Ohad Knoller as the films lead. The film is quite slow, but this reflects the melancholia that Yossi is experiencing. Since leaving the army (and the death of his lover/boyfriend Jagger), Yossi has thrown himself at his career – training to become a heart surgeon. He works tirelessly, never takes holidays and returns to his dark apartment only to watch TV, porn, and to fall asleep, exhausted by life, on the sofa – or even in his car. One day Jagger’s mother comes to the hospital and this reawakens Yossi grief. He endeavours to tell the family that their son was gay and that he died in Yossi’s loving arms – he is unsure if Jagger heard him say ‘I love you’ as he drifted in and out of consciousness before his death and this has haunted him ever since. With the negative reaction from the mother, less so from the father, Yossi decides to take his first holiday. Giving a lift to a bunch of soldiers, who missed their bus, he notices Tom’s attraction to him. Now this sounds very predictable… however, this is not a predictable love story. They don’t make eyes at each other and wake up next to each other the next morning. Yossi is so emotionally damaged by his time in the army, the death of Jagger, the secret of his sexuality (he is yet to come out) and his body hang-ups that nothing happens for a painstaking hour.
Eytan Fox is always semi-political in his film, never really confronting the issue head on but instead hinting heavily. Here, he is clearly commenting on how Israel has changed in terms of it’s sexual liberalism – Tom serves as an openly gay man in the army (but his parents still do not know). This is very different from when Yossi was in the army, and those who have seen Yossi and Jagger, will remember how secretive the two had to be. It was only in the final moments of Jagger’s life that Yossi could even attempt to be loving to him in public and that was only because he had no choice – his time was limited before it was too late to declare his love.
This film handles a lot of issues very successfully. The older, closeted gay man haunted by his past is given a new lease of life by the ‘new’ Israeli gay man. Jagger and Tom’s family’s lack of knowledge/acceptance prevents the film from being too utopian, however. Fox also highlights the issues surrounding online hook-ups, with the cocky man who humiliates Yossi for using an older picture of himself online, but still asks for a blow job “before they call it a night”. It is unclear as to whether Yossi complies, in his cocoon of self-loathing, or whether he stands up for himself and leaves.
Having read a few professional and non-professional reviews, some were disappointed that Tom ‘forces himself’ on Yossi. I would say this is exactly what he needed to get him back on his feet. Yossi didn’t need someone to tell him he was fat and a shadow of his former self. He didn’t need someone who left the light off when they have sex. He needed brash and (over-)confident Tom to bring him back to modern day Israel and to finally help him out of the cycle of depression he found himself in.
(I do not own this image)