Yossi (screening as part of the 2012 Jewish Film Festival) is an Israeli drama directed by Eytan Fox. It serves as a sequel to Fox’s 2002 film Yossi and Jaggar, which introduced audiences to Ohad Knoller’s titular character. He reprises his role here. It is a sad, but hopeful and life-affirming story about 34-year-old Yossi, a former soldier (his service and his doomed relationship with a fellow soldier is covered in Yossi and Jaggar) and now a cardiologist living in Tel Aviv. He is still a closeted homosexual and a sad and lonely workaholic.
He lives a rather pathetic existence; immersed in a morose, boring daily routine. He eats bad food - he is pudgy, unshaven and tired-looking - watches bad gay porn and draws daily sympathy from his co-workers; one a nurse who expresses an unreciprocated romantic interest in him, and the other a newly-divorced doctor who tries to takes him out partying in an attempt to help him get his mojo back. He tries online dating, but when he arranges a meeting using an old and misrepresentative photo, he is embarrassingly called out on it.
It shares a resemblance to Tom Ford’s A Single Man, a tender character study about a man who is struggling to overcome the loss of a lover and traumatic events from the past. When Yossi, by pure chance, is reminded of Jaggar, he decides to take a vacation in an attempt to get his life back together. Running into a group of young Israeli soldiers, he offers to give them a lift to a luxurious resort; deciding to stay too. He particularly enjoys the presence of Tom (Oz Zehavi), a handsome young man who sees through his sadness and rejuvenates him.
Following the observant and restrained opening half, which immerses us intimately in Yossi’s world, the story livens up when he journeys out of the city – expanding his own horizons just as he drives through sprawling hills and deserts.
Suffocated living in the city, plagued by guilt and struggling to mask his repressed sexuality, Yossi rediscovers his youth and finds a means to come to terms with his identity being a part of Tom’s open, outgoing and carefree attitude.
There isn’t much to the story and it has certainly been done before, but this character study is maturely handled and covers sensitive subject matter intelligently. Yossi is a character we sympathise with and hold hope for, and Knoller does a fantastic job conveying Yossi’s contempt for himself, his isolation from the world and subtly revealing his transformation.
Andrew Buckle - follow Andy on Twitter here: @buckle22
Directed by: Eytan Fox
Written by: Itay Segal
Starring: Ohad Knoller, Oz Zehavi and Lior Ashkenazi
The Jewish International Film Festival runs from November 1-8 at Event Cinemas Bondi Junction.