MOVIE "Raymond & Ray"
WHERE Streaming on Apple TV+
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke play half-brothers in "Raymond & Ray," a new drama with comic overtones from writer-director Rodrigo Garcia (HBO's "In Treatment").
The movie finds Raymond (McGregor) and Ray (Hawke) reunited to attend the funeral of their estranged father. They have both had extraordinarily difficult relationships with this domineering man, who looms over the movie in absentia.
The brothers find he's got some posthumous surprises in store for them, not the least of which is his wish that they personally dig his grave.
The Apple TV+ film co-stars the outstanding Maribel Verdú and Sophie Okonedo.
MY SAY At its sharpest, "Raymond & Ray" depicts a moment of trauma that's both highly specific and all-too-common.
In vivid terms, the characters have to face the damage their father did to them, and the finality that comes with recognizing that there will be no opportunity for closure, no cathartic revelations to atone for all that was ruined.
Anyone who has lost a parent or another close loved one will surely recognize how truthfully the movie conveys the magnitude of what this farewell means.
There's nothing about the way Raymond and Ray remember their dad that's simple or easy to characterize; they hated him, he certainly did them wrong, but he's also imprinted on them and shaped their lives more than anyone. And the movie shows just how hard it is to process that presence no longer being there.
The filmmaker gives his excellent stars the chance to do some real acting, in a story that largely functions as a two-hander before the introduction of several key supporting characters. It's refreshing to see McGregor and Hawke get the space to build out two lonely, broken men desperately striving for some sort of a new beginning.
The quieter moments are the strongest, allowing for both actors to capture particular notes of grief: McGregor's Raymond buttons things up and tries to play peacemaker; Hawke's Ray is wilder, angrier, more of a loose cannon.
There's some unfortunate bloat: The filmmaker starts piling on other characters and introducing some strange relationships in what seems to be an effort to stretch out the running time. When the funeral arrives, the picture starts playing with surreal touches that come across as a little bit desperate.
There's some genuinely clunky dialogue in an effort to inject some humor into the proceedings, when it would have been better to simply trust the actors to account for it.
But you could do far worse than filling out a movie with characters played by Okonedo ("Hotel Rwanda"), a nurse who befriends Ray, and Verdú ("Pan's Labyrinth") as dad's former lover.
And the essence of "Raymond & Ray" remains intact: its story of two men struggling to process this new reality, resonant for anyone who has gone through the complicated experience of having to say goodbye.
BOTTOM LINE Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke are outstanding in "Raymond & Ray," a movie that gives them the chance to focus on developing their characters rather than serving the whims of a plot.