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Yossi, Directed by Eytan Fox

United King Films, May 17, 2012 (Israel)

Screenplay: Itay Segal

Starring: Ohad Knoller, Oz Zehavi, and Lior Ashkenazi

Yossi is a film of subtle power about a man lost in the shadows of a tragic past. When viewed on the surface, the learning to live again, learning to love again aspect of the film may not exactly be groundbreaking, at least on its own. The real potency here is not a result of that which is constructed by circumstance but instead by wounds self-inflicted.

Certainly, when losing a loved one, profound loneliness can be an emotionally scarring side effect, but such loss or the potential thereof is inherent to life itself. Yossi’s troubles run deeper than this. He is paralyzed by a total inability to embrace self: physically, emotionally, sexually. As a result, he is a shell of a man, getting through life by going through the motions, existing but simultaneously and painfully absent.

Seemingly incapable of seeing the beauty that he possesses, Yossi has sentenced himself to living life in solitary confinement. Here is a man that exudes vulnerability and masculinity. He is, quite frankly, sexy as hell, and yet the man he sees in the mirror is entirely deficient, rendered nearly helpless by an insecurity over his aged and stockier physical appearance and by shame from the secrets he lives with. When he resorts to emailing a picture of his younger, less fleshy self to a potential suitor, it is not surprising that the results are awkward and sad. But, it at least demonstrates that Yossi embraces some version of himself, albeit a ship that has sailed.

Conversely, we know from the prequel, Yossi & Jagger, that when Yossi was this same younger, more fit version of himself seen in the photograph that he now uses to misrepresent himself today, he was not exactly comfortable within his own skin then either. But that is how life is, isn’t it? In the various stages, it is all too easy to find faults within ourselves, wishing we were more this or more that, less this, less that, yet when we look back, we view things differently, maybe even liking what we see in the photographs five, ten, twenty years ago. It is far easier to embrace a former self than it is to embrace the fat old fool we have morphed into now.

Subtle power is a concept that seems like an oxymoron, but make no mistake, it exists, a rare but precious commodity. Like a sunset’s soft yet stunning hues washing silently over the horizon at dusk, or like a memory we thought was fading that somehow returns unexpectedly, with a vividness previously unforeseen. This is how I felt watching Yossi tiptoeing out of the darkness and into the light, taking a chance to not only get back into life but with a vigor and vitality previously as lost as that faded memory that was seemingly buried forever. And in the performance by Ohad Knoller as well. Yes, subtle power exists, and if you are not careful, it just might sneak up on you and blow you right away.