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Originally published Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 3:02 PM

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‘Yossi’: Sequel looks at life after heartbreaking loss

A movie review of “Yossi,” the sequel to “Yossi & Jagger.” It’s an intimate, engaging look at a former Israeli soldier struggling to move on from the loss of his lover (who died on the front lines).

San Francisco Chronicle

Movie Review 3 stars

“Yossi,” with Ohad Knoller, Oz Zehavi. Directed by Eytan Fox, from a screenplay by Itay Segal. 84 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. In Hebrew, with English subtitles. Egyptian.

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“Yossi,” the intimate, engaging tale of a former Israeli soldier struggling to move on from the loss of his lover (who died on the front lines), takes place 10 years after the ending of its tragic, groundbreaking predecessor, “Yossi & Jagger.”

Much has changed in Israel since then — Tel Aviv is a world-renowned gay hot spot; the military is open to homosexuals — but our hero, Yossi, seems hopelessly stuck in the past. Although he’s become a respected cardiologist, he remains closeted (just as he was as a soldier) and appears to have no gay friends (or any real friends, for that matter). This is a man who has walled himself off from the planet, unless you count meaningless online hookups or visits to Web porn sites.

Yossi’s autopilot existence gets a jolt when an unexpected person from his past shows up for a checkup at the cardiology center. This event propels Yossi on a journey to slowly but surely come out of his shell — a journey that will take him to the Israeli desert, where he will meet a group of young officers, including one who will change his life.

As one might expect from a director as talented as Eytan Fox — whose “Yossi & Jagger” created a stir in Israel and is considered an LGBT classic — “Yossi” offers genuine pleasures (even some of Fox’s trademark musical numbers).

Ohad Knoller (who reprises his role as “Yossi”) shows us the pain of loneliness and the heartbreak of loss, but also the subtle beauty of Yossi’s guarded exterior gradually giving way. It’s an excellent performance that anchors the film, though Fox gets superb work from his entire cast.

This is a mature film from a mature director who gets more assured with every outing, even if this contained character study does not rank among his most ambitious efforts.

If there’s anything to quibble about, it’s the script. Too much of the film is devoted to showing us Yossi’s isolation: The skilled Knoller lets us know what we need to know in the first five minutes.

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