Clocking in at just 61 minutes (not counting the credits), Yossi & Jagger is a short story of a movie. In fact, if you remember your college literature class, you may detect just a touch of Herman Melville's Billy Budd in this brief but moving story of a handsome and magnetic young soldier disrupting the daily grind of his tightly knit troop.
The routine is boring but exhausting at an Israeli army outpost atop a snowy mountain along the Lebanese border. The dozen or so soldiers in the dilapidated camp do little more then go out on practice ambushes and dig trenches. There's plenty of time left over for joking with the cook, dancing in the barracks with the beautiful young women who also serve, and letting petty jealousies simmer.
Jagger (Yehuda Levi) has earned that nickname for being "like a rock star." Everyone likes him, and he likes everyone, but there's only one person he loves: Yossi (Ohad Knoller). That's a problem because even though Yossi loves Jagger, too (as an erotic romp in the snow establishes early on), he's Jagger's superior and isn't willing to be even the least bit demonstrative in public. His motto: Don't ask, don't tell, and most definitely don't lock lips in the machine gun bunker when other soldiers are nearby.
But Yossi's not the only one with a crush on the popular Jagger. The beautiful Yaeli (Aya Steinovitz) is smitten as well and won't be discouraged, even when other soldiers tell her "he's probably not your type." Ofir (Assi Cohen), in turn, has a crush on Yaeli and becomes furious when Jagger distracts her from his clumsy advances. Jagger just goes with the flow, getting angry only when Yossi refuses profess his love and promise a future together. All he really wants, he says, is to check into a hotel with Yossi and ask for one bed, not two that they push together in private. But Yossi won't warm up. "This isn't some fucking American movie!" he snaps. That's for sure.
It's a rare complaint that a movie is too short, but Yossi & Jagger feels rushed and could have used some thoughtful pauses. The setting is unique, the characters are rich, and there's not a single annoying cliché to be found. (It's not an American movie!) The emotional fallout from Yossi and Jagger's relationship, powerful though it is, would have packed an even more potent punch had the intricacies of their relationship, as well as their relationships with the soldiers around them, been allowed to play out at a more leisurely pace.
What's the Israeli army's attitude toward homosexuality, anyway? The guys indulge in all the usual fag jokes, but no one seems to mind that Jagger may be a little light in his combat boots, and he seems perfectly happy to do his time in the military, especially if he and Yossi can steal away for walks in the woods. Yossi & Jagger says a lot and is well worth an hour of your time, but you'll walk away thinking it could have said more.
Note: The DVD includes a music video of the movie's romantic theme song. Watch the handsome singer stroll past gun turrets and barbed wire as he croons. It's an interesting coda that could only come from the Middle East.
And don't eat yellow snow.