Estranged half-brothers reunite for a road trip to bury their abusive father in “Raymond & Ray,” the latest film from writer / director Rodrigo García. The story is richly detailed yet uncluttered, and offers a simple but insightful look at broken relationships. Although it suffers from a lack of character development and a disappointing conclusion, this drama has just enough dark humor, original surprises, and two strong lead performances to keep it afloat.
Raymond (Ewan McGregor) and Ray (Ethan Hawke) were as close as ever when they were kids. As adults, the men haven’t spoken in years. Raymond has racked up a string of failed marriages while former musician Ray is a recovering addict. They still have one thing in common: a hatred for their old man. Raymond begs his brother to accompany him to the funeral out of a sense of obligation, and Ray reluctantly agrees. Old wounds are reopened (and some, healed) as they come to terms with the past, with regret, and a few unexpected surprises along their journey.
It’s a strange story with interesting twists (including their father’s brazen final request), and the situations are so specific that the story feels as if it had to be based on real-life experiences. It’s disappointing that Garcia doesn’t dig deeper into his characters’ histories, as the audience only gets brief mentions of life-changing events and emotional wounds from the past. It becomes clear that neither brother ever really knew their dad, but they come to learn more about him (and each other) in the process.
“Raymond & Ray” is a story about grief and moving on, even if it means reinventing yourself.