Half-brother story is strong in emotions, but weak in execution.
In “Raymond & Ray,” Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke play half-brothers, who reunite for the funeral of their abusive father, whose dying words are that they bury him. With no machinery, but shovels. These two actors know how to use their emotions and tones, especially the way McGregor uses his American accent over his Scottish tongue, but the movie is an overall downer that starts to get overwhelming.
They were both named Raymond and Ray out of laziness and to avoid confusion. It’s almost like if my sister was named Chrissy and my name is Chris. My sister is named Alix, for the record, and her friend’s name is Chrissy. So, I told her not to call me Chrissy, on account of that. But that’s a whole other story.
The title of this movie seems ideal and could very well lead somewhere, if only it had something fresher to provide in the script.
McGregor as Raymond got his driver’s license suspended because of his DUI charge, while Hawke as Ray has been clean for 7 years. Both their lives didn’t pan out, and they act out on one another. Ray blames their father for leading them down this path, while Raymond is in denial. But we can tell he was poisoned as well.
Their old man (Tom Bower) has slept with various women-including Raymond’s wife-up to the point of meeting his former lover Lucia (Maribel Verdu) and her 10-year son Simon (Maxim Swinton, a distant cousin of Tilda), who is their obnoxious step-brother, much to their surprise. And they have a few others they can’t seem to name, considering that they just met. In fact, they’ve never even met the old man, but he wanted them here anyway.
He’s also converted to Judaism at one point, for a short time as the half-brothers say, which is why some people think they need a rabbi. They don’t need one; they got Reverend West (Vondie Curtis-Hall) to speak at the funeral. He’s likable when he shows his sympathy for the brothers and their situations, and he’s given the right dialogue to back him up.
In the relationship story, Raymond connects with Lucia, while Ray connects with her father’s nurse Kiera (Sophie Okonedo). In retrospect, Okonedo has more value than Verdu does, because the former could care less about relationships and more about how she precedes her life, and allows Hawke to acknowledge that.
“Raymond & Ray,” written and directed by the usually effective Rodrigo Gracia, made me look at the screen because of McGregor and Hawke, but made me want to look away at how everything goes out of place. There are relationships that are rather dull, other half-brothers with very little payoff, and the kid is a real pain in the ass. Sorry to be picking on movie kids.
It all feels overwhelming with all the relationships their dead father has engaged in, and the sons he’s had along the way. And it ends up being tiresome when we get to the obligatory formulas about how the main half-brothers’ lives have turned out, and how they struggle to see their own faults. Or was it their fault? Or was it their father’s for sending them in their directions? It’s conflicting.
McGregor and Hawke both have the kind of chemistry that allows them to express their anger and pathos, and Gracia guides them both well. And I’ll never forget how Raymond uses Ray’s gun to shoot their father’s cheap-looking casket out of anger. But they’re all missing the right script to keep us more involved.
Streaming on AppleTV+