The heartwarming “Half Brothers,” from director Luke Greenfield, is one of the most delightful surprises of 2020. This tale of two men who meet as adult brothers is a funny, touching, feel-good movie with a genuine sentiment that is universal.
Mexican aviation executive Renato (Luis Gerardo Méndez) has never forgiven his father Flavio (Juan Pablo Espinosa) for leaving him decades earlier to seek better opportunities in America. When he gets word that his dad’s health is rapidly deteriorating and he has requested to see his son one last time, Renato heads to the United States to grant his father’s dying wish. While visiting him in the hospital, Renato learns another bit of shocking news: he has an American half brother, Asher (Connor Del Rio), that he never knew about.
Since this is a clichéd story, of course the two brothers are polar opposites. Renato is straight-laced and successful, while Asher is as free-spirited as they come. They have very little in common, and they certainly don’t get along at first. It’s soon revealed that Flavio was the mastermind behind this meeting, and it was no accident. Their father has set up a scavenger hunt that forces the two brothers on a road trip that retraces the path their old man took as an immigrant on his journey from Mexico to America. At the end they are promised a reward in the form of answers to their many questions, so it’s a puzzle they are too curious not to solve.
Méndez is a leading movie star in Mexico, and it’s easy to see why. He’s a charmer, and is one of the most appealing actors I’ve seen in a long while. He plays off Del Rio well, and the duo make a fun-loving, enjoyable onscreen pair. Espinosa is sympathetic as a man who has lived with a life of regret, a flawed father who isn’t perfect but did the best he could do — or what he thought was right at the time — for his family.
The film’s pacing is brisk with a comforting and folksy feel. The warm humor is delightful, and there are plenty of well-deserved jabs at American stereotypes (especially when it comes to ziplining in Mexico, or speaking slowly and loudly to non-English speakers). More serious, politically-based aspects of America, particularly how the country is viewed through the eyes of immigrants, are touched on briefly. There’s a poignant scene in a border detention center that’s so sad, and hopefully it will get through to close-minded people so they can better understand what it must be like to be an outsider in a sometimes unwelcome country.
The film’s message about being a good father and brother is a sweet sentiment that’s underscored by the theme that it’s never too late to reconnect with family. “Half Brothers” is a hopeful story that encourages everyone to focus on our similarities rather than our differences, and a reminder that the world would be a much kinder place if we did.