out of Five
Running time: 84
A tender Israeli drama with a gorgeous soundtrack and a truly sympathetic character at its heart, Yossi is moving in parts but is noticeably lacking in romantic chemistry and its slow burning quality won’t be for everyone.
What’s it all about?
Directed by Eytan Fox, Yossi is the sequel to Fox’s 2002 film, Yossi & Jagger, and revisits Yossi (reprised by Ohad Knoller) as a gay, workaholic cardiologist living alone and working in Tel Aviv, Israel. When a blast from his past comes to him as a patient, Yossi’s world is instantly shaken up, forcing him to address his issues surrounding his former lover Jagger (who tragically died at the end of the first film) and recognise the sad and lonely existence that he’s become used to.
Desperate to break free for a while, Yossi leaves Tel Aviv and travels to the southern city of Eilat, where he meets a group of Israeli IDF officers, who inspire him to change his ways.
From the opening scene to the closing credits, it’s terrifically easy to sympathise with Yossi (played expertly and effortlessly by Ohad Knoller) as a character who is a sad and lonely, but thankfully not self-pitying and entirely pathetic, thirty-something loner. Sweet, vulnerable and sensitive, his daily routine consists of working overtime and returning home to his empty flat at ungodly hours to watch gay porn, chat to cruel but attractive homosexuals on chat rooms and munch on takeaway noodles. These scenes (along with a particularly rough moment where Yossi is begrudgingly dragged into a threesome in a sleazy club bathroom) are uncomfortable to watch and you instantly feel for the sad protagonist and practically plead for a fairytale ending.
Despite being a sequel, Yossi also stands almost completely independent as a film and so newcomers will be pleased to know that watching Yossi & Jagger prior to this is not entirely essential (although it is recommended). The script is strong but understated and the soundtrack is truly gorgeous, blending sweet folk with Israeli anthems to spur on scenes and keep viewers engaged.
The only real problem with Yossi is that its blossoming romance between Tom (Oz Zehavi), the young, confident and openly gay IDF officer, and its leading man is not entirely believable and noticeably lacks some vital chemistry. However, as this romance is so briefly on screen in the bigger picture and Knoller’s so strong in his stand-alone scenes, this flaw is not as bothering as it could have been.
Yossi takes a little while to heat up, but the overall result is genuinely pleasing. Admittedly, it’s not a film for everyone’s taste buds, but it’s a must-see for fans of Yossi & Jagger. Recommended.