Raymond and Ray Review: Ethan Hawke and Ewan McGregor's performances keep this dramedy afloat
Raymond and Ray stars Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke as half-brothers coming to terms with their abusive father's death. Read Pinkvilla's review below.
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Ewan McGregor
Director: Rodrigo Garcia
In Rodrigo Garcia's Raymond and Ray, ideas of grief, past trauma and estranged relationships get explored with hints of comedy as it tells the story of half-brothers, Raymond (Ewan McGregor) and Ray (Ethan Hawke) who get together to bid farewell to their estranged father following his death. Shockingly, despite not being in touch over the years, their late father's final wish is for his children to dig his grave. Considering death triggers memories of the past, Raymond and Ray go through emotional turmoil as they reflect on their childhood, the kind of man their father was and the impact it has had on them as grown men.
The film begins with Raymond (McGregor) who is the timid one among the two, making a daring move as he visits his half-brother Ray (Hawke) by driving down to his place despite having lost his licence due to a DUI. The urgency of meeting with Ray is to inform him that their father is dead. Raymond still seems to not have processed his feelings about their father's death and isn't too sure what to feel about him given their abusive childhood. Ray, on the other hand, is at first unbothered and also uninterested to make it to the funeral until he is convinced by Raymond.
As the duo embark on a road trip to Virginia for their father's funeral, the brothers find themselves reflecting on their childhood trauma as their father often pitted them against each other making both of them feel less than at every given point. What Raymond and Ray don't know is that their late father still has a lot of punches to throw following his death and asking them to dig his grave is only the tip of the iceberg. Will Raymond and Ray be able to let go of their past trauma as they say goodbye to the person who inflicted it on them or will they learn another side of the departed souls that may have been there all along is what is left to see.
One of Raymond and Ray's greatest achievements is that it brings together the powerhouse talents of Ethan Hawke and Ewan McGregor together. This is the first time that the two actors known for their fine acting skills come together and to be honest, it's their performances that keep us invested in a story that otherwise seems predictable. While Hawke and McGregor convincingly bring the complicated emotions of Raymond and Ray as they process their father's death, it's also Rodrigo Garcia's unhurried direction that lets this dramedy fester in its complex emotions. Both the director's and the cast's best concoction is created during the stirring graveyard sequence where the film comes together to a point of chaos and meditatively emotional all at once.
Raymond and Ray finds itself stuck in a template of the indie-dramedy genre and the film's screenplay services every expected element that would be synonymous with the genre and its tropes. Despite the film's ability to aim higher and dig deeper within the concepts that it tries to explore, it never truly does and hence there are points when Hawke and McGregor even feel underused. Packed with twists that come till the very end, Raymond and Ray still doesn't quite make the impact that it hopes to achieve because it stretches out the idea of pulling surprises on the audience. Humour being tricky to achieve in a film like this doesn't always land and while some elements work, the verbal and physical comedy does not stick its landing in several places.
There's no one way to deal with grief and the emotional baggage it comes with. The most fascinating question that a film like Raymond and Ray raises though is how does one part with a deceased person whom you have never truly forgiven or for that matter even actually known? The idea that we see and understand a person only through our own experiences with them may actually be a one-note way of looking at them. The same person could mean different things to the lives that they touch and in Raymond and Ray it comes to a point of disbelief for the half-brothers as they realise, their estranged father may have been an altogether different person in his late years. Forgiveness doesn't come easy and death certainly doesn't guarantee it. This particularly shines through in a moment where Raymond who has internalised all his childhood trauma break free at one of the most unexpected moments as he wreaks havoc at the funeral.
In the case of Ray's character, there's a rather predictable backstory of his late father being unsupportive of his dreams of making a career in music and the Jazz trumpet player as an adult has found himself dealing with addiction while trying to run away from his past trauma. Both Raymond and Ray are men who have grown up trying so hard not to be impacted by the scars of their childhood and far away from being the versions of their father that the weight of their legacy has left them scared to truly ever be themselves. Post his death though, it seems this very baggage lightens a little as they finally address their emotions about him.
While Ewan and Ethan deliver strong performances as the leads, it's the supporting cast of consisting of their late father's lover/companion Lucia (Maribel Verdú) to his nurse Kiera (Sophie Okonedo) that bring out the best parts of the storyline as well as performances. The bond building up between Ray and Kiera particularly stands out and Okonedo is absolutely brilliant in every scene. The same goes for Verdú. It's amazing how the two women have it all figured out and become the anchors to Raymond and Ray. The idea that as Raymond and Ray dig through six feet of ground as requested by their father, they learn new secrets about him makes the cemetery sequence one of the best in the film. The dramedy falls short of making a strong emotional impact all through except for certain moments where it feels more authentic and is above its predictable elements.
- Ethan Hawke and Ewan McGregor's performances
- The supporting cast of Sophie Okonedo and Maribel Verdú
- The chaotic but enjoyable cemetery sequence
Raymond and Ray doesn't push itself too far. The film comes across as a safe form of storytelling where it touches upon the ideas of overcoming loss and childhood trauma but never really digs deeper to make an emotional connection. With Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke's on-point performances, the film seems settles itself as a one-time watch movie that may not leave you with much to introspect.
A writer with 6 years of experience, addicted to coffee, films, and sarcasm. Currently exploring all things Hollywood...Read more