James uplifts himself with ‘Yossi’, a wonderfully unassuming film from Eytan Fox, getting the Iris Prize Festival 2012 off to a great start.
A decade or so since Yossi (Ohad Knoller) lost his lover while they were serving in the army together, he is now a cardiologist, substituting his deep depression for workaholism. When he almost accidentally kills a patient on the operating table, he is made to take a holiday. There he meets handsome soldier Tom (Oz Zehavi), openly gay and carefree. But can Yossi accept his affections and will it be enough to give him the new lease on life that he desperately needs?
Iris favourite, Eytan Fox, returns with his sequel to hit Yossi and Jagger, displaying once more that he’s a director not to be reckoned with. Yossi is a film that is staggeringly straightforward and unassuming, hooking you with an allure that is hard to resist, from start to surprising finish. The plot is simple, the action quiet, and the issues uncomplicated.
Fox executes the film with a disarmingly simple artistic flair. Upon first inspection, it doesn’t appear anything special, but you soon realise that Fox drives the pace through inspired nuance and subtly arresting imagery. He has a real knack for savouring the incredibly intimate moments between Yossi and Tom, enabling the viewer to connect with them on a deeper level. In addition, opting for wide shots and interesting angles capitalises on the performances and natural chemistry between the pair. But this also keeps your intrigue, even if you’re unaware of Fox’s technique. Nothing jars or feels forced, which is thanks to some great editing, to the point where you’re completely unaware that nearly 90 minutes have passed.
Furthermore, Itay Segal’s narrative is very well paced and never drags. There are even a few wonderfully knowing references that add intrigue as well as humour. But it also deals with several issues in an non-cataclysmic manner – coming out and body image being the two main ones. These are explored with a deft and grounded realism that merely asks for the audience’s natural empathy, rather than forcing them to relate in a particular and obvious manner.
However, by far the most astonishing thing about this film is Knoller’s performance. He manages to strike and sustain the grey malaise of someone with depression perfectly. What’s more, his slow, inching-out of it makes compelling viewing, as he manages to make the transition feel completely natural. Zehavi is also a wonderful co-star, feeding off Knoller’s performance, portraying his polar opposite. The pair are also entirely convincing with their awkward and sexually tense chemistry, with Zehavi particularly good at enacting his determined resolve to connect affectionately with Yossi.
The only small complaint is that it very much feels like a sequel. Everything eventually does get revealed and explained, but unless you’ve seen Yossi and Jagger – or at least done a little bit of research and are able to make a few easy assumptions – you may find yourself a little lost during the first half of the film. Otherwise, this is an incredibly engrossing feel-good movie. It might be devoid of bells and whistles, but it’s the film’s simplicity that is instrumental to its genius.
Yossi was shown as part of the Iris Prize Festival 2012. The festival took place in Cardiff, Wales between 10-14 October 2012. To find out more about the festival visit www.irisprize.org.
Featured picture: Ohad Knoller (left) and Oz Zehavi (right). Photograph: Courtesy of Iris Prize 2012.