Yossi (Ohad Knoller) is a thirty something doctor in Tel Aviv who hides the fact he is gay from all around him. He is a workaholic and is a very melancholic character. When a middle-aged woman walks into the hospital he insists on treating her, even though he appears not to know her, and the mysterious meeting is a catalyst for Yossi to take his overdue holiday. In a spur of the moment kindness Yossi picks up a group of soldiers as he is driving to southern Israel which begins to make him look at things in a different light and starts to shake away the sadness that envelops him.
Ohad Knoller has played the character Yossi before in director Eytan Fox’s 2003 film Yossi and Jagger. The character is extremely endearing, lacking in confidence and emotionally ruined from a previous event, it matters not if you have seen the previous film. A memorable scene where Yossi arranges to meet a man for sex after chatting on the internet sees him post a picture of himself a few years out of date. He arrives at the man’s apartment and is verbally chastised for deceiving the much more attractive person, it is a heart-breaking scene and from then on Yossi has our hearts. We empathise with his evident loneliness and awkwardness with his true sexuality. His co-workers like him, he is invited on a date by an unknowing nurse and a fellow doctor takes him out for shots and attempts to set him up with women, but still Yossi is unhappy and as we find out more about him we realise the unhappiness is not quite as simple as it seemed.
Knoller does an outstanding job of depicting a man so deeply depressed that it takes a lot of emotional shaking to wake him up. We immediately love him as a character and he subtly conveys a wealth of emotions. This film has been compared to Andrew Haigh’s film Weekend (2011) and personally I believe Yossi is a much more affecting film due to there being much more character development and having a much more likeable, appealing character.
With an extremely low budget of £500,000, Yossi is a simple but hugely effective film. The supporting characters are well acted and interesting and the film is well structured, never revealing too much but just enough to keep your attention. The story builds steadily, with two narrative strands intertwining, and keeps the audience completely absorbed throughout.
Essentially Yossi is a charming love story which will no doubt bring tears to your eyes. There are moments of pure joy that will definitely make you smile and as the new equilibrium unfolds we will the outcome to be in Yossi’s favour. Tom (Oz Zehavi) is the person who begins to change Yossi’s perspective on life. A gorgeous fun-loving young soldier who is openly gay introduces to Yossi the simple pleasures in life such as getting a massage. But Yossi is extremely stuck in his ways and so body conscious that he struggles to adjust. Zehavi is excellent as Tom the carefree soldier, but a fleeting comment about not telling his parents about his sexuality reveals the true difficulties in being homosexual in contemporary Israel.
Being an Israeli film you might expect a lot of political references but Fox chooses instead to delicately earmark the issues with reference to the dangers in the Sinai, where Yossi is initially travelling to. The film does not feel like a gay film either, it is a love story that happens to be about two men.
This film really deserves a wider audience to see it and I truly hope it gets that. After being pleasantly surprised by this I will definitely be looking out for Yossi and Jagger. Ohad Knoller puts in a tour de force performance and this is a lovely story full of emotions that build to a crescendo. A beautiful film with a lot of heart.
Yossi is released 30th November 2012.
Director: Eytan Fox
Writer: Itay Segal
Stars: Ohad Knoller, Oz Zehavi and Lior Ashkenazi
Runtime: 84 mins