Raymond & Ray is now streaming on Apple TV+.
By Greg Wheeler
There’s a moment in Raymond & Ray where the titular brothers fight each other. Ray (Ethan Hawke) makes an offhand comment about their lives not panning out. “Hey, you’re pissing me off,” Raymond (Ewan McGregor) responds flatly. And in a 0-to-100 escalation, the two men are suddenly swinging at each other.
Much like in this scene, there’s much heart behind Raymond & Ray, but little nuance. Written and directed by Rodrigo García, the film immediately establishes its grim premise–that Ben Harris has died and wants his sons to dig his grave–and repeatedly and tactlessly reinforces the severity of the situation through stilted dialogue.
Estranged half-brothers Raymond and Ray (Harris was such an asshole, according to his sons, that he named them the same thing) are going to go along with their father’s hare-brained request, but begrudgingly so. As they so often and unceremoniously state, Harris was not a good father to them. But meeting people who were involved in his later life, like his lover and friend Lucia (Maribel Verdú) and his nurse Kiera (Sophie Okonedo), teaches the brothers that their father was a more complicated man than they thought. It raises the question: How much can children and parents truly know each other?
It’s a compelling question, with which Raymond and Ray valiantly struggle. McGregor’s and Hawke’s performances are raw, walking different lines between grief, hurt, and indifference. But their interactions often feel empty. A flat script does little to buoy them; other characters have no more significance than to offer conflicting views of Harris. There’s nowhere for the driving question to lead, other than… “things are complicated.”
Mostly, however, they’re simple. Raymond & Ray is raw and real in its subject matter, but too blatant in its execution. Like the fight between half-brothers, the story itself leaves nothing to simmer, stating its intentions directly through awkward dialogue.
In the end, Raymond & Ray–undoubtedly a moving family drama with a talented cast–is cramped by blatant, unrefined storytelling.
I give Raymond & Ray a D.