Review: 'Raymond & Ray’ Relies on Ethan Hawke’s Performance To Boost a Weak Script
Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke star in Apple TV Plus’ Raymond & Ray, now streaming.
It’s late at night, and Raymond is sitting in his car, trying to find the will to knock on Ray’s door. He’s bringing news, though whether they are good or bad will depend on the recipient. Their father has now passed on, effectively putting an end to years of psychological torture. Raymond (McGregor) wants to go to the funeral and see it through, while Ray, who’s not a big fan of rituals, isn’t having it at first. They finally get on the road the next morning, and progressively start to untangle the life their father was now living as they talk to the people that were now close to him. They all paint a picture that is very much not the father that they knew.
The premise behind Raymond & Rey is very solid — two middle-aged half-brothers who suffered from tumultuous adolescence due to their father’s erratic behavior towards them are now trying to put a definitive end to the demons hunting them. Through different ways, their father got into each of their heads and now they are trying to move on. However, the old man might be messing with them from the soon-to-be grave, as we start to find out when they meet the annoying funeral home director, played by Todd Louiso, who is trying to meet all the deceased’s last wishes.
However, the premise didn’t translate well to the script and Raymond & Ray is, in the end, a colorless movie that could have been very different under a different set of hands. Rodrigo García writes and directs the movie, which is only watchable thanks to the performance of Ethan Hawke, who always brings it. Even Ewan McGregor is directionless throughout most of the movie, and fails to make us empathize with him. I appreciate when movies teach us about how the characters became who they are now through present-time dialogue, as opposed to cutting back to flashbacks to show us what happened through a more objective lens — when McGregor explains his father’s ex-lover, played by Maribel Verdú, how he used to be a promising athlete while his brother was the one with the straight A’s and the musical talent, the movie almost begins to work. But the dialogue needs to be sharper for that technique to work, and McGregor needs to be awake.
Verdú and Sophie Okonedo, who plays a lovable nurse who used to take care of their father, deliver strong supporting performances, though they are not enough to give the movie some life, for lack of a better term. At the end of Raymond & Ray, we as an audience have barely started to fully understand these characters. The script poses them with several challenges throughout the runtime that force them to make decisions. Through the way they approach those moments, which for the most part are their father messing with them with yet another crazy last will, we get some insight into them. But the script needed another couple of revisions for those moments to fully land, and the final scenes fail to give the characters a conclusive arc.
We are also introduced to a few characters in the second half of the movie that basically make us question what exactly are we watching. There is a lot of tone clashing, and at times we feel completely disconnected from Verdú’s character, who was very approachable at first, because of how her behavior varies from scene to scene. Vondie Curtis-Hall plays the Reverend, a character that sounds great on paper, but didn’t translate well to the screen the way it was written.
In the end, Raymond & Ray was a bit of a disappointment, especially given the two lead actors attached to it. Hawke holds the movie together while McGregor is acting on another dimension.
The movie is now streaming on Apple TV Plus.
Miguel Fernández is a Spanish student that has movies as his second passion in life. His favorite movie of all time is The Lord of the Rings, but he is also a huge Star Wars fan. However, fantasy movies are not his only cup of tea, as authors like Scorsese, Fincher, Kubrick or Hitchcock have been an obsession for him since he started to understand the language of filmmaking. He is that guy who will watch a black and white movie, just because it is in black and white.