“Our father’s dead.” Not “Dad’s gone” or “Pop died.” “Our father.” The way he’s referred to right off the top tells me the relationship was not warm and loving.
And it wasn’t. “Raymond and Ray” are half-brothers played by Ethan Hawke and Ewan McGregor, two actors so natural it never looks like they’re acting. You can sense their crackling chemistry from the start, as they embark on a road trip together to go to the old man’s funeral. Along the way, we learn more about how sour their relationship was, because their father wasn’t good to them at all. Still, they both feel compelled to attend, if only to see him buried and out of their lives forever.
When they get to his town, they begin to encounter people who knew him, including the funeral home director (Todd Louiso, memorable as Jack Black’s foil in the record store in “High Fidelity”) and the father’s attorney, who informs Raymond and Ray the dead man’s last wish was that they dig his grave. They grudgingly agree, and the scene soon shifts to the cemetery. It’s there that more layers of everyone’s stories are peeled as new characters arrive and we learn how they’re all connected to the man in the pine box.
Of the supporting cast, Maribel Verdú is the standout as a woman whose home the father lived in. Vondie Curtis-Hall shows up as a minister, Sophie Okonedo plays a nurse, and Tom Bower — one of those “I know that guy” character actors with more than 150 credits to his name — appears briefly as the dead man. But the success of the movie relies entirely on Hawke and McGregor, who carry the burden well.
Writer/director Rodrigo García relies on his cast rather than his editor to make the movie work. He uses a lot of two-shots and medium shots without cutting away to closeups, and lets scenes develop in long takes, giving the proceedings the perfect pacing. There are no action sequences, but a lot of conversation and character development, yet the movie never seems slow. In fact, its run time of about 100 minutes is just right.
I give “Raymond and Ray” a 7.5 out of 10.
Begins streaming Friday on Apple TV+.