Two very different half-brothers bury their abusive father in a special ceremony. Raymond and Ray addresses the balance sheet of reconciliation and moves forward with a comedic tinge. It takes a little time to get going but drops some wild revelations in the second act. Stars Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke make the most of an uneven storyline. The pain they experienced in childhood haunts their adult life. Depression, addiction, and failed relationships stem from their difficult upbringing. The film struggles with tone but ends with a gratifying message. Facing traumatic events is not easy but necessary to free oneself from suffering.
A buttoned-up, pared-back Raymond (McGregor) travels to a secluded home in the woods of West Virginia. Her buff, tattooed, pierced brother Ray (Hawke) opens the door with a gun. They haven’t seen each other for three years. Their father, whom they refer to by his surname, Harris (Tom Bower), is deceased. Ray is glad the miserable bastard is gone. They both cut ties with Harris a long time ago. His dying wish was to be buried by his sons. Ray scoffs at the idea. He is dead, let him rot. Raymond disagrees. They need closure.
The brothers go to a funeral home in Richmond, Virginia. Raymond continues to be jealous that every woman flocks to Ray. Canfield (Todd Luiso), the funeral director, gives them burial instructions for their father. He wanted to be buried naked in a wooden box. And to have his sons dig the grave manually.
Raymond & Ray will sort through their father’s belongings. They are stunned to find the vibrant and beautiful Lucia (Maribel Verdú). It’s my house. She also has a young son, Simon (Maxim Swinton), with Harris. The brothers make fun of their father’s notorious womanizer. They have another surprise when other sons (Chris Silcox, Chris Grabher), fraternal twin acrobats, also show up at the cemetery. As the half-brothers crew begins to dig, terrible memories resurface. Raymond and Ray clash as they come to terms with their father’s confusing legacy.
Balance laughter and tears
Writer/director Rodrigo García (Nine lives, mother and child) is too ambitious to find the balance between laughter and tears. Pranks, like the request for a naked burial, are humorous but seem silly when the tension builds. Raymond & Ray have deep scars. Their father took pleasure in physical and psychological torment. Giving them the same name was an example of his cruel behavior. They can’t get along with the man Lucia knew. The idea that he was nice to Simon and had other secret sons exacerbates their distress. What did they do to earn their father’s contempt? Were these mistakes he learned from? These are difficult topics. The brothers are on an emotional roller coaster.
Intriguing subplots sustain the film when the funeral narrative falters. Raymond connects with Lucia. He is the exact opposite of her father but arouses the same carnal interest in her. Ray, a trumpeter mocked by Harris for enjoying “Negro music,” is drawn to his father’s fiery nurse, Kiera (Sophie Okonedo). Their controversial back and forth challenges Ray to find his purpose.
Raymond and Ray works because you are rooting for the brothers. They rediscover their bond by burying a pathetic man. The message of the film is clear and important to understand. Do not succumb to the despair of lingering torment. Aggressors lose their grip when you let them let go.
Raymond and Ray is an Apple Studios, Mockingbird Pictures and Esperanto Filmoj production. It’s currently on a limited theatrical release with an Apple TV+ premiering on October 21.