The follow-up to ‘Yossi and Jagger’
by David-Elijah Nahmod
A decade ago, openly gay Israeli film director Eytan Fox burst upon the international film scene with Yossi and Jagger. The tragic love story told of two Israeli soldiers who had fallen deeply and hopelessly in love while serving in war-torn Lebanon.
A decade later, Fox and his star Ohad Knoller (Yossi) return.
Still mourning the loss of his lover in battle, Dr. Yossi Gutmann is now a cardiologist at a large hospital in Tel Aviv. Clinically depressed and deeply closeted, Yossi has completely shut off his emotions. He’s incapable of joy on even the most basic level.
A co-worker (Lior Ashkenazi) takes Yossi to a bar and tries to loosen him up. The doctor closes himself off even further. But when a patient turns out to be Jagger’s mother, he uncharacteristically comes out and tells her about his long-ago relationship with her son.
Yossi is a somber film about learning to love again. In portraying Yossi’s deep and quiet sadness, Knoller gives a sensational performance as a broken spirit who yearns to reconnect with the world, but has no idea how to do so. When he meets the younger, openly gay, free-spirited Tom (Oz Zehavi), Yossi’s life begins to change.
Through his films, Eytan Fox is primarily responsible for changing Israel’s image from a religious, war-torn nation to that of a liberal, tolerant gay destination. The director and Knoller have a long-standing working relationship. In 2006, Knoller top-lined Fox’s The Bubble, a daring Romeo and Juliet-inspired tale of forbidden love between a gay Israeli and a gay Palestinian. The actor understands Fox’s vision. The director knows how to bring out the best in his star.
Yossi is more than just a character study. Fox makes numerous, often critical observations about the contradictions of contemporary gay life, which ring true in the U.S. as well as in Israel. Yossi’s attempt at online dating turns out badly, because he’s let his appearance go. The jovial Tom, out and proud to his friends and to the Israeli Defense Forces, admits that his parents have no idea he’s gay. “They know nothing about me,” he says.
Yossi is an intense film, but it’s also profoundly romantic. Like its predecessor, it teaches us that love can heal many wounds.
Yossi, along with Yossi and Jagger, is available on DVD via Strand Releasing (strandreleasing.com).
David-Elijah Nahmod lives in San Francisco. His eclectic writing career includes LGBT publications, monster magazines, and the Times of Israel.