A sequel that needn't be a sequel, "Yossi" is Eytan Fox's sort-of follow-up to "Yossi and Jagger," his controversial, landmark drama about gay lovers in the Israeli military, one of whom is killed on the Lebanese border at the end of what was a very popular 2002 film. Ten years later, Yossi (the wonderful Ohad Knoller), is an accomplished, albeit workaholic, cardiologist -- unshaven, overweight, with sleep-hungry eyes and a generally listless attitude.
Thanks to Fox's precise, and concise, direction, we know all we need to know about Yossi in the first few minutes of the film, and just as he is about to meet his several moments of truth: First, Jagger's mother (Orly Silbersatz Banai) shows up for an examination, roiling his memory. Then, a near-catastrophic mishap convinces him he needs a vacation. En route to Sinai -- his idea of relaxation, apparently -- he picks up a stranded quartet of active-duty soldiers, who bring him very slowly out of his emotional torpor. One of them, Tom (Oz Zehavi), will do even more.
Beneath its economical story line, "Yossi" is also about leaving the past behind in a larger, national, more metaphysical fashion, too. The film is certainly rich in the kind of revealing gesture through which character is defined and made endearing; the script by Itay Segal is very good, but we get just as much, or more out, of Knoller's asides and Fox's precise eye for the pivotal emotional moment.
At the same time, Yossi serves as a metaphor for one nation and maybe more -- grief has marooned him in a particular time and place, made him old before his time, blinded him to the fact that being gay in 2002 is not the same as being gay in 2012. And that it's time to wake up and smell the progress.
PLOT Ten years after losing his lover in the Lebanon War, an Israeli doctor struggles to shake off his grief. Unrated
CAST Ohad Knoller, Lior Ashkenazi, Orly Silbersatz, Oz Zehavi, Ola Schur Selektar
BOTTOM LINE Delicately directed and ultimately upbeat story that embraces both personal crisis and public consciousness. (In Hebrew, with English subtitles)