A sibling is a relative with whom a person can have any number of different relationships. If children are close in age, they may grow up together and remain friendly and close in adulthood. Living in a home of discord or divorce can also create a strong bond, though it may also bring with it a trauma that makes being together too painful due to the memories invoked. The death of a parent is a milestone that may serve to force siblings to reunite, which can be a good or bad thing depending on how it is that they feel about each other at that point. Raymond and Ray entertainingly showcases one particularly complicated case of brotherly love.
Raymond (Ewan McGregor) shows up at the home of his half-brother Ray (Ethan Hawke) to tell him that the father they very much hated his died. He has made specific requests about what his sons should do as part of his funeral, and each of them come with layers of baggage that dredge up feelings of anger from his grown sons. As they navigate their relationship to a man who caused them mostly misery, they meet a number of people who knew him as someone very different, like Lucia (Maribel Verdu), his former girlfriend turned housemate and landlord, Kiera (Sophie Okonedo), his nurse, and an eccentric priest (Vondie Curtis Hall) who is on tap to conduct the funeral.
This film’s title is the first indication of an unusual childhood for its protagonists, given that they have essentially the same name. They remember it as a deliberate act on their father’s part, one that also caused confusion for him and for others. The brothers recall qualities each of their mothers had and find themselves mistaking attributes between them, certain only that their shared husband drained the life out of them. Lucia, whom they initially think is a housekeeper, has an altogether different energy, aware of who the man she had living in her house was and more than comfortable with the arrangement they had.
It’s fun to see McGregor and Hawke together in these roles. While McGregor has recently leaned into charismatic and sometimes villainous turns, like in Halston and Birds of Prey, here he plays someone less confident, prone to defending his lifestyle as perfectly fine and pleasant when Ray pokes fun. Hawke is clearly having a blast, portraying someone without a filter who uses all his energy on fleeting connections, hilariously getting the funeral home receptionist to run out after him to give him her phone number. Together, they’re very entertaining, and their comic banter segues nicely into potent drama once they really start unpacking what they’ve endured.
In its depiction of the often surprising stories that are told at funerals and revelations that only come out after someone’s passing, Raymond and Ray does verge on the ridiculous with a few of its curveballs. But it manages to remain focused, showing the complicated process of grief as the brothers are forced to dig a grave themselves for a man who made them do plenty of things that might have made them miserable but also strengthened them in some other way. This journey is lighthearted and at the same time full of pain, and McGregor and Hawke are very skilled at conveying those conflicting emotions. Verdu and Okonedo complement them nicely, with their characters each connecting with one of the brothers and managing to truly see them. The comedy here works well, but it’s the few sincere dramatic moments that are most memorable.
Following its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Raymond and Ray will debut on Apple TV+ on October 21st.