I tend to dislike films that fall into the “Gay and Lesbian” genre. They are usually either really unrealistic a la (straight) romantic comedies or overly dramatic or too simple and straightforward (thus not really investigating deeper themes that “straight” movies might delve into [and I think part of this is because the “Gay and Lesbian” film genre is only 20 years old]) or just “too gay” (which I hate to even say since I get annoyed with gay people who complain about “gay culture” being too flamboyant or sexual or whatever [and I therefore see “too gay” as a combination of self-hate and stereotyping]), but the Israeli film Yossi & Jagger is one of those rare gay films that transcend that “Gay and Lesbian” genre.
The film (which is apparently based on a true story) mostly follows two soldiers in the Israeli army. The fact I say “mostly follows” is perhaps the first indicator that this is more than just a “Gay and Lesbian” movie. While Yossi and Jagger’s love story (which has already been established so this isn’t one of those “finding the right one” movies, either) is the dominant narrative of the film, it also captures the isolation of a military posted somewhere on the outskirts of civilization (in this case the Lebanon/Israel border) as well as the other strange relationships (thus showing that Yossi and Jagger’s situation is just one of many slightly less-than-fully-functional/ideal interpersonal relationships) that develop in small, isolated communities.
Example 1: Some woman in the army is basically something of a pleasure woman for the colonel who comes to visit the outpost on occasion. Example 2: Yaeli, who has a crush on Jagger despite the fairly obvious fact he’s gay and/or with Yossi, who one of the other soldiers in turn has a crush on and mistakes an interaction between Yaeli and Jagger to be some budding relationship.
In addition to relationships, the film also touches on the nature of military life (close quarters, no access to movies, fighting for something you don’t fully understand/agree with, crappy food, etc.) including gayness in the military. At one point some soldiers are making jokes about “faggots in Tel Aviv” and then Jagger asks them how they’d react if he told them he was a faggot. They said something like, “Well you are pretty so we’d all be after you” and everyone laughed. (So basically, gay soldiers aren’t as much a problem for the actual people on the ground but more of a problem for civilians on the outside.)
If you don’t want the outcome of the movie spoiled, stop reading here… because my favorite scene was actually the final one.
After an ambush that goes horribly wrong (the area was laced with mines/explosives it seems) Jagger is killed. Yossi finally tells Jagger that he loves him and even shows his affection for Jagger in front of other soldiers/officers.
When the group of soldiers goes to visit Jagger’s family to pay their respects, Yaeli basically tells Jagger’s mother that she loved Jagger and she tried to tell him the day he died that she had feelings for him but didn’t get a chance and that she knew that Jagger felt the same way. The camera kept cutting over to Yossi who can really do nothing as Yaeli basically hijacks Jagger’s memory with her own unrequited love story. I found this especially fascinating because I’ve noticed that when people die, everyone seems to want to project some part of themselves onto the memory of the person and sort of replaces that person’s existence (which I guess is over since they are dead) with all of these co-opted memories.
Finally Jaggerâ€™s mom makes some comment about how she didnâ€™t know her son at all: she didnâ€™t know he had a girlfriend, she doesnâ€™t know his favorite movie, and she doesnâ€™t know his favorite song. Throughout the film Jagger is constantly making up funny lyrics to this song by some Israeli singer named Rita (who seems to be something of an Israeli gay icon a la Madonna for American gays). Yossi is able to tell Jaggerâ€™s mom what her sonâ€™s favorite song is, thus reclaiming his own part of Jaggerâ€™s memory.