Raymond & Ray spares no-time at all in getting us personal with these characters, as it literally begins with Raymond (Ewan McGregor) arriving at the home of his brother Ray (Ethan Hawke) in the middle of the night to deliver the news that their father has passed away. It’s apparent from the get-go that these guys didn’t have the best relationship with their father as they question whether or not they should even attend his memorial service, but as more is unveiled about their father’s dying wishes and their placement with them, they go on an unlikely road trip to bury him once and for all – and perhaps their deepest traumas with him.
Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke are truly two of the most gifted actors of our lifetimes, and the idea of them playing brothers in a 100-minute dramedy is an incredible selling-point to me as a film fan. However, it became apparent to me around the halfway mark of Raymond & Ray that I wasn’t getting much from the characters or writing; that I was ultimately feeling nothing, despite the film being strung up of scenes, performed by talented actors, deeply trying to get me to do so. How can a film that’s so personal feel so insincere in the same breath? Raymond & Ray is truly an anomaly in that way, where everything seems to click on paper but never works in motion.
For the positives, McGregor and Hawke are both predictably great in this film and do a wonderful job at being believable as brothers. The characters openly wear their traumas and regrets almost like a badge of honor, but McGregor and Hawke both do their best to add nuance and subtlety to the material. And the film itself does operate as a mostly inoffensive indie-drama for almost the entire running-time. The problem? To me, it felt like the film was more concerned about getting personal and deep with these characters from the get-go than establishing any sense of distinct personality to make you genuinely feel for these characters. I don’t like or dislike them; I’m given no reason to feel anything for them and thus don’t.
The film flirts with the idea of dark comedy as it goes further along, but it never really becomes genuinely funny nor insightful at any given point. It feels like a film that is entirely held together by basic filmmaking competency and the predictably solid performances from its leads. It’s a film that may serve as a solid watch on a Sunday afternoon as you scour streaming services for something to watch or if you really just want to see these actors together, but it feels entirely too much like a rough-draft for me to recommend it to people. It feels like everyone involved, the audience included, deserved meatier material to work with.