I’ve heard a lot of good things about the gay-centered drama ‘Yossi & Jagger’, from the early aughts, but I never got around to seeing it. Still, I ran across the sequel the other day and decided to give it a watch. I know what many are thinking, and that is that you really can’t watch a sequel without seeing the first film first, but I’ll say this; ‘Yossi’ is a standalone film and really doesn’t need the first film to be appreciated on its own. In fact, this film has enough shading of backstory to fill in the audience on what they missed in the first film, and in my eyes this almost works entirely as its own feature, without the presence of ‘Yossi & Jagger’. This isn’t to say that the films don’t work together, and even work together better (like I said, I’ve only seen this film) but if I didn’t know that there was a film that came before this, I wouldn’t have guessed with while watching ‘Yossi’. This feels very much like a singular story, and for that I was grateful.
This doesn’t mean that it works entirely, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
‘Yossi’ tells the story of Dr. Yossi Gutmann, a gay man hiding (or more ‘not disclosing’) his sexual orientation from his colleges and pretty much living a quiet and uneventful life. He has lost love (the death of his military lover Jagger) and this has scared him emotionally, leaving him a ghost almost. He wanders through his life, sad and alone, seeking senseless escapades online and crawling deeper inside his shell of shame and regret. Then he meets a group of young soldiers, and one a whim starts up a ‘sort of’ relationship with one, a friendship from a distance that awakens Yossi’s thirst for life and love once again.
As a whole, ‘Yossi’ is a nice film. It is anchored by a beautiful performance by Ohad Knoller, reprising his role from ‘Yossi & Jagger’ and shading Yossi with so much internalized anguish. Watching his bloom near the film’s end is beautiful to see, and this is a real testament to the honesty Knoller brings to the role. Still, ‘Yossi’ also feels somewhat like a non-event. While the film does have that nice climax, bringing Yossi’s struggle full circle, it almost feels like too little too late. We wait the entire film for something to happen, and when it does the film ends abruptly and we are left wondering why we waited so long for so little to actually happen. The film has questionable pacing because of this fact (it drags a little in parts) but is so light you almost don’t feel that. Like I said, it is a nice film and Knoller is fantastic.
Still, when it’s over, that is that and you move on, not looking back once.
I will say this though; seeing Lior Ashkenazi was a real treat for me. Ashkenazi gives one of my FAVORITRE performances of the aughts in ‘Late Marriage’ and seeing him in another film (I stupidly have not kept up with his career) was a surprise, but a great one. He’s also still a stone cold fox, so I did wish that he had a larger role here (especially since his role was so…provocative).
I give this a B-. It's a sweet little film, but you won't remember it tomorrow. It needed a lot more (preferably Lior) to give this film the impact I desired it to have.