Charming two-hander by Rodrigo Garcia Raymond and Ray is a double act we never knew we needed, the unlikely pairing of Ethan Hawke and Ewan McGregor in an equally unexpected comedy from a director better known for his tender dramas with female characters. Truth be told, Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall was a little on the big side for this (Sundance could have been a better platform), but this AppleTV+ TIFF gala went well and could very well be an indie sleeper this year, with award potential for his acting ensemble. , and Hawk in particular.
The setting isn’t one for laughter – an uptight Ray (McGregor) shows up at the home of his laid-back jazz musician half-brother Raymond (Hawke) with the sad news: their father is dead. It soon becomes clear that neither of them has any affection for the old man—he was, after all, a “bitter son of a bitch,” Ray says—but Raymond insists that they attend the funeral, if only “to watch.” how it looks.” to put him underground.” Ray relents, and the two men embark on a journey of self-discovery that has many unexpected and funny twists, despite the seeming seriousness of the situation.
Their father, whom the brothers call Harris, is the third wheel in this strange couple, and the pain he caused them in life is comparable to the trouble he will cause after death. To claim their inheritance, the couple must dig his grave before sunset, but first they must go to the funeral home, where Harris bought the cheapest coffin of all – a real wooden box – in which he asked to be buried naked and face down, a strange custom. , which has something to do with his “Tongan roots” (turns out Harris reinvented himself many times later in life by converting to Judaism from Buddhism). They then visit his home to pick up a motley set of relics where they meet Lucia (Maribel Verda), his free-spirited love, and finally head to the chapel of rest where Ray meets Kira (Sophie Okonedo). Harris’ nurse in his last days.
The two brothers have great sad-bag chemistry together – as Ray puts it, they’re “a couple of grown men whose lives have failed” – but their individual personalities are different. Raymond, nervous and restless, is living through the end of his third failed marriage, suffering the humiliation of being cuckolded by his own father, while Ray, a swaggering womanizer, is recovering from a serious heroin addiction. As the film progresses, everyone encounters a woman who turns out to be sympathetic to their needs, a slightly sketchy plot twist that nonetheless works thanks to the caliber of the cast.
While both have the same screen time, Hawk may be doing a little better than McGregor. McGregor is comic foil here and his timing is great, his scared bunny face doing the hard work whenever dry existential humor threatens to move from Beckett to Monty Python territory (wait until the tumblers show up). McGregor can also fire a pistol, a very funny twist on a Chekhov convention that brought down an entire house in Toronto.
Hawke, however, has more of an arc, and his relationship with Harris will prove to be the more conflicted and mysterious of the two. While it’s nice to see Verda and Okonedo, talented and charismatic performers, their roles aren’t as deep as the two guys’ and there comes a point where at the 80-minute mark Raymond and Ray the road seems to be over, leaving the remaining time to bring the two couples together with varying degrees of success.
Still, there’s a lot to like here, and with the fall festival season quite dramatically failing to offer the awards season juggernauts they promised in principle, Garcia’s film could sneak up on voters with a soft-to-soft campaign based on its powerful an acting reputation and a poignant exploration of family secrets and bonds. As coda showed earlier this year, Apple has a little bit of form when it comes to it.