Ten years after Yossi And Jagger, the groundbreaking Israeli drama about gay love in the military, comes its sequel. But does Yossi live up to its predecessor? Review by Marc Andrews.
In 2002, a film about two soldiers stationed at the Israel-Lebanon border who happen to fall in love was a global gay festival hit. Its stars were the beautiful soldier Yehuda Levi (as Lior/ Jagger) and his commander Ohad Knoller (as Yossi). Tragically, Jagger is shot and killed in an ambush and that’s where Eytan Fox’s film ended.
Fox now returns to find out where Yossi is a decade later. We discover him as an overweight, morose heart surgeon working in a Tel Aviv hospital who spends most of his time sleeping, watching gay porn or fending off the affections of the female nursing staff.
That all changes, however, when he performs a routine cardiac check. Yossi recognises his patient as the mother of Jagger, but doesn’t say anything. He goes so far as to give her a lift home following the examination, quietly questioning her while she suspects nothing.
When an online date goes horribly wrong (after he sends a photo of himself when he was years younger and probably 20kgs lighter), Yossi takes stock of his life and decides to visit Jagger’s parents and tell them the truth about his love for their dead son. Jagger’s mother goes into shock and asks him to leave, while his father asks if he’d like to see Jagger’s room. Back at the hospital, his fellow doctors point out that Yossi looks “like an operating table” and he decides to take a long-overdue vacation. On his way to the seaside, Yossi stops for roadside food where he meets four stranded soldiers and offers to give them a lift into town.
Sparks fly between Yossi and openly-gay soldier Tom (Oz Zehavi) who is ridiculously sexy. Yossi decides to stay in the same hotel as the soldiers, meeting them later poolside. In a not-so-subtle nod to the situation, Tom notices Yossi is reading the classic older-manenamored-with-young-man novel, Death In Venice. As he flits around in tight black Speedos, you can almost see Yossi’s erection burst out of his baggy shorts while he watches both in awe and lust. But when Tom and a hunky massage therapist start comparing tattoos by the pool, he becomes jealous and heads back to his room more morose than ever.
Without wanting to spoil the ending, nobody dies this time and there is very much a happy ending. While the film is rather slow-moving and ponderous, it is a perceptive study on how it can take a new love to bring out the beauty in a person who has shut themselves off to love. In many ways this is a one-man movie
In a not-so-subtle nod to the situation, Tom notices Yossi is reading the classic older-manenamored-withyoung-man novel, Death In Venice.
with Ohad Knoller making the most of his meaty role. So much so that he packed on the pounds to make himself believably frumpy.
The DVD extras include interviews with both stars and this time we hear Ohad speak English (the movie is in Hebrew with English subtitles) and we also see he hasn’t yet managed to lose all those kilos he packed on. Oz reveals that this is the first gay character he’s played, although he has played plenty of soldiers before. He also notes that Yossi And Jagger was the first film to handle gay matters in Israel which he saw and insists it didn’t have the effect on him “that it did for gay people”. We guess this is his way of coming out as straight. There’s also a 45-minute short film from Eytan Fox about Israeli soldiers (he does love that theme!) called Time Off.
Yossi is poignant, thoughtful and, despite its languid pace, has plenty to offer the viewer if you’re prepared to let the movie seep into your consciousness.