58th Chicago International Film Festival: Raymond and Ray Review

Films that gear on siblings and struggles appeal to me deeply. They typically involve elements that are either harsh or easy to dismiss. Raymond and Ray are focused on brotherhood. It is a touching and inviting comedy which does not shine a light too brightly on its dark subject matter. I found it to be a compassionate film about two brothers reconnecting.

Director Rodrigo Garcia knows how to challenge culture and family dynamics in Raymond and Ray. His authenticity in directing correlates with his HBO series In Treatment (2008-2021). Garcia directed many of the episodes of In Treatment back when Gabriel Byrne was the main psychologist. Garcia always knew how to capture what hurts people. The concept of challenging truths of family and their underlying issues is where Garcia pinpoints the central struggles with Raymond and Ray.

In the film, Ethan Hawke is Ray and Ewan McGregor is Raymond, and their father has died. The main characters are half-brothers. They come together to get the funeral for their father set-up. The funeral must be carried out according to their father’s wishes. With the difficult task of having to dig their father’s grave, the brothers find themselves struggling with frustration and hatred towards their father.

The performances of Hawke and McGregor are surreal and touching. Hawke’s character is about having his cultured musical side, but sadly he could not hold down a job. McGregor’s character is an individual with a DUI record and issues with his wife and kids although those issues do not enter the film very much. The film focuses primarily on the brothers and how they deal with the funeral. The way the movie portrays them coming together to deal with an issue that is sad, stressful, and emotional makes Raymond and Ray especially powerful. The fact that life is not fair is a fact that both brothers grapple with.

Raymond and Ray will make viewers laugh and cry. While there is some resolution in the film, the major flaws of both brothers are a difficult subject matter. The film is dramatic throughout and despite its sadness, it has meaning. Three and a half stars.


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