“Raymond and Ray” premieres on Apple TV+ on October 21st and is a part of the Chicago International Film Festival. It stars Ethan Hawke (Ray) and Ewan McGregor (Raymond) who play half-brothers in the film. The brothers are offspring of a feckless father who traveled the world apparently impregnating a variety of women, as we learn in greater detail throughout the film. Check it out and see if you agree with one of its stars (Ethan Hawke), who once said, “It’s fun to see a movie that’s made for someone over the age of 15.”
These two sons were by different mothers whom Dad (Benjamin Reed Harris III, portrayed only after death by Tom Bowers) gave the same name, and they grew up together. One guesses that the duo probably survived their father because they had each other. A line from the script is “We come from chaos.”
Raymond—the more conventional of the two and an employee of the Cincinnati Water & Power Department—convinces Ray (Ethan Hawke) to accompany him to their mutual father’s funeral over Ray’s initial objections. The pair have very bad memories of dear old Dad. Raymond (Ewan McGregor) warns his half-brother regarding their father’s passing, “It’s gonna take a whole lot more than a hole in the ground to get him out of your head.”
Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke can spin gold out of dross; their excellence in these roles was expected. Ethan Hawke, in particular, plays a character who has been a jazz musician for his entire life and is a reformed drug addict. Hawke really delivers some scene-stealing moments playing the trumpet, both at the funeral and in a jazz club after the service is over, accompanied by co-star Sophie Okenodo as Keira. Hawke portrayed 50’s jazz trumpeter Chet Stevens in the 2015 film “Born to be Blue” and spent about 8 months learning to play the trumpet before that outing. It shows—although Hawke claims no expertise as a trumpeter.
Ray’s (Ethan Hawke) reputation has been that he attracts women “like shit attracts flies,” so Sophie Okenodo is written well in an interesting departure from your expectations. Kudos to the writer (who is also the director). I loved lines like this one when the sons hear what a charming fellow their dead father was to others. Says Ray (Ethan): “Does whipping our asses with a belt count? ‘Cause, if it does he was a hoot.”
Rodrigo Garcia both wrote and directed this film. Garcia previously wrote 5 episodes of one of my All Time Favorite television series, “Six Feet Under” between 2001 and 2005. Only two other writers (only the show’s creator, Alan Ball, and one other writer wrote one more episode than Garcia). “Six Feet Under” was a great training ground for this film, as it examined the family that ran a funeral parlor, and there are many scenes shot in a funeral parlor in this movie, and a quirky funeral director, played well by Todd Louiso and Vondie Curtis Hall plays the Reverend West.
Others have criticized the writing: too middle-of-the-road, too predictable, and not far enough into either comedy or drama. I disagree. As someone who has been reviewing films for 52 uninterrupted years, “Ray and Raymond” showed the audience some insights that few other films have even attempted and did so with humor.
I agree that the many “reveals” became a bit much by the film’s end, but the script delivers some nuggets that have not been examined that often. One Eternal Truth that Rodrigo Garcia illuminated for the audience is that we all belong to something greater than ourselves.
But the one that resonated, with me, came by the film’s end when the two brothers have lived up to their father’s odd wish that they actually physically dig his grave, Raymond (Ewan McGregor) says to Ray (Ethan Hawke), “We never really knew him, did we?” This truth is driven home again and again as the duo converse with others in their father’s life, including some of the women he loved and left.
I learned this lesson IRL, as someone who has buried both parents. I was constantly being brought up short by remarks made to me about what a lovely, sweet woman my schoolteacher mother was. It’s not that I didn’t love my mother and didn’t think she was “lovely,” it’s that the self a parent reveals to his or her offspring is often a completely different human being than the one the son or daughter experiences. It is jarring to hear about what a great conversationalist is or how giving one’s parent has been—with and to others. That was the Eternal Truth that this screenplay illustrated so beautifully.
Spanish actress Maribel Verdu, as Lucia, enlivens the entire film. A veteran of “Y tu Mama Tambien” and “Pan’s Labyrinth,” the Spanish actress was a stand-out.
Certain aspects of the film deserve special praise. The music (Jeff Beal) is great and the cinematography by Igor Jadu-Lillo is, as well. Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity,” “Roma,” “Children of Men”) is one of the executive producers.