It’s been a decade since Yossi Guttman (Ohad Knoller) cradled the dying male love of his life, Jagger, on a Lebanese battlefield. They kept their relationship a secret, and the necessary closeting has taken its toll on the surviving partner. Yossi has let himself go both physically and emotionally, working long hours as a hospital physician to distract from his profound sadness and regret. You don’t need to have seen 2002’s Yossi & Jagger to feel the character’s pain, and Israeli director Eytan Fox’s melancholy follow-up to his festival-feted breakthrough easily stands on its own, tracing Yossi’s gradual emerging from his mostly self-created shell.
Fox admirably emphasizes low-key drama over hokey histrionics, and even queer-cinema clichés like a failed hookup and a belated coming-out take surprisingly pointed emotional turns. Yet when a twist of fate sends Yossi on the road to a resort town, and into the arms of pillow-lipped younger dreamboat Tom (Oz Zehavi), the movie takes a hard turn into fantasyland. Initially, there’s a welcome edge to the duo’s flirtations; you can sense the envy Yossi feels for someone who’s never known what it is to repress a deep-rooted part of himself. But the perfectly sculpted, entirely sure-of-himself Tom ultimately seems more of a construct than a character, his carefree nature shaped almost entirely by the very wish-fulfillment clichés that the movie otherwise sidesteps.
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