Eytan Fox’s 2002 film, “Yossi and Jagger,” a love story about two Israeli soldiers, was a breakthrough in international gay cinema. Much has changed in the decade since, which makes it all the more moving for Fox to revisit Yossi (Ohad Knoller) in this sensitive sequel. Older and pudgier, Yossi is still wrapped in grief over the Lebanon battlefield death of his lover (Jagger, a.k.a. Lior) at the end of the first film.
Now a cardiologist at a Tel Aviv hospital, Yossi works long hours, eats take-out food alone in his apartment, and watches online porn. He avoids the interest of a female co-worker and shuns the repeated invitations of a recently divorced male colleague to hit the bars and pick up women. But their overtures spur him to try an online hook-up. A model-gorgeous man answers the door, fresh from a shower, and proceeds to insult Yossi for posting an old photo of himself. “You don’t look like that any more,” the guy dismissively tells Yossi, who’s unaware how much he’s stuck in the past.
Seeking some sort of closure, he visits Lior’s parents. Confessing his relationship with their late son doesn’t go over well with the mother, but Lior’s dad invites Yossi to visit Lior’s room in a tender but restrained moment that echoes a similar one in “Brokeback Mountain.”
The film gets going when Yossi gives four soldiers a ride back to their hotel. We can see the awakening of ease and enjoyment in him, even as the younger men make fun of his “old” music. The handsome Tom (Oz Zehavi) is openly gay, and flirts casually with Yossi. On a whim, Yossi decides to spend a few days at the hotel. It isn’t such a stretch that Tom, who looks like a Calvin Klein model, would pursue the teddy bear Yossi, whose vulnerability is appealing. One remembers that Lior was called Jagger because of his sensuous mouth — and Tom’s more than matches it. The film falls into some romance conventions, such as how the poolside chair next to Yossi is always free.
When Tom tells Yossi how much things have changed for gays even in the military, Knoller’s face and body language convey both envy and a protectiveness of his own experience. Knoller manages to make even a withdrawn character compelling, and worth rooting for as Yossi struggles to shed his shell.