While much excitement (and the last edition of this column) has been devoted to the handful of generally fantastic new queer films — “C.O.G,” “Concussion,” “Interior. Leather Bar,” “Pit Stop,” “Kill Your Darlings,” “God Love Uganda” — to come out of last week’s Sundance Film Festival, the fact of the matter is that it’s gonna be a while before any of these films actually hit theaters. But there is one great LGBT-focused film you can go see right now (at least if you’re in New York, though soon enough in most other major cities): Eytan Fox’s “Yossi,” a sequel-of-sorts to his 2002 film “Yossi & Jaggar.”
“Yossi” quietly premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last April, where it was picked up by Strand Releasing. It came out in New York last weekend to rather little fanfare, but it’s definitely worth seeking out.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of its predecessor, “Yossi & Jaggar.” A love story between two male Israeli soldiers, it was most certainly an affecting, sexy portrait of a doomed gay relationship in a very specific milieu. But I found it a little too soap-operatic, a little too unrealized…
Ten years later, however, it is clear that Fox has matured significantly as a filmmaker with “Yossi.” It’s a lovely little film about grief and aging and life’s second chances that plays like an Israeli cross between Tom Ford’s “A Single Man” and Andrew Haigh’s “Weekend.” Ohad Knoller reprises his role of the now singular title character, now an overweight, closeted 34 year old doctor living in Tel Aviv. Still struggling with the tragic events that came at the end of the first film (spoiler alert: Jagger died), Yossi lives a sad, lonely life.
The film’s first act establishes his rather pathetic routine: He works a lot, he masturbates to bad gay porn, he eats shitty food, and in one of the film’s saddest, best scenes, he meets dudes off the internet by utilizing a misrepresentative photo from a good 5 or 6 years ago.
But thankfully for Yossi, it gets better. After he randomly meets a group of young Israeli soldiers, “Yossi” gives us a hopeful second act set on an Israeli resort. It is here a romance begins between Yossi and Tom (the ridiculously gorgeous sexpot that is Oz Zehavi), which slowly brings life back into Yossi’s faded mojo. While that’s certainly a storyline we’ve seen before, “Yossi” is a handed with such restraint and tenderness by Fox (and Knoller, who gives a fantastic performance) that that doesn’t matter. It also lacks the soap-operatics of “Jagger,” and feels wholly complete as the screen fades to black and the your heart jumps for Yossi and perhaps finds a little more hope for itself.
Watch a full scene from the film below. “Yossi” is currently screening in New York, and opens in Los Angeles next weekend, followed by a nationwide expansion.