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June 2021

Half Brothers

Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Focus Features
Release Date: Dec. 4, 2020


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Movie Review 'Half Brothers'

by Adam Pavlacka on Dec. 4, 2020 @ 12:28 a.m. PST

Renato, a Mexican aviation exec, is shocked to learn he has an American half-brother he never knew about, the free-spirited Asher. They are forced on a road trip together, tracing the path their father took from Mexico to the US.

Sitting down to watch "Half Brothers," I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The trailers advertised a dumb comedy (and I'm certainly a fan of well-timed humor), but the film quickly presented itself as much more. This solid family drama is only spoiled by the unlikeability of a key character.

The movie starts out by introducing us to Renato (Luis Gerardo Méndez), a Mexican aviation executive who wants nothing to do with America. As we quickly learn, that's because his father left him and his mother to go find work in the U.S. A short phone call later, Renato learns that dear old dad is dying, and he needs to come see him.

What's refreshing about "Half Brothers" is that it doesn't sugarcoat Renato's resentment. It's real and it's palpable. This is a man who's been badly hurt, to the point that his fiancée tells him to go on the trip because she can see that he still has issues from when his dad left.

Renato's arrival in the U.S. is the first hint that "Half Brothers" is willing to dig deeper than a typical comedy. There are some stereotypical jokes played out, but the way they're presented flips the script. It's obvious that the film is poking fun at sheltered Americans and not at Renato. As Renato's adventure progresses, he ends up dealing with more serious issues, including both racist rednecks and the border patrol. The film manages to deftly thread the needle on these points, moving from humor to seriousness with nary a hiccup.

While Méndez is clearly the star of the show, Connor Del Rio also puts in a good performance as his half-brother Asher, who is everything Renato is not. If Renato is the successful businessman, Asher is the directionless, eternal optimist who tries to always see the positive side in things. Asher may not have Renato's success, but he also doesn't have Renato's fear of the unknown.

Watching these two learn about each other and the common past that entwines them is the heart of the movie. In some ways, their journey can be seen as a metaphor for Mexico and U.S. relations: Two brothers who are more alike than they think, and need each other to survive, even if they don't want to admit it.

Unfortunately, for a story like this to work, there needs to be some kind of redemption at the end. All throughout the film, I kept waiting for the big reveal about their father. What was the mysterious thing that made him abandon one son? Why should Renato give this man the time of day? There had to be a reason, right? It turns out that Renato and Asher's dad was just a selfish man. Not only was he a poor dad to Renato, but he was also a poor father to Asher.

"Half Brothers" tries its best to make their dad seem relatable. At points, I found myself rooting for some reason to empathize with his decisions. But in the end, I empathized with Renato and Asher more than anything else. These were two brothers who ended up bonding over shared trauma.

In the end, "Half Brothers" isn't a film about a family coming together despite the odds. No, the message here is muddled but direct. Family is what you make. While it was their selfish father who ultimately pushed them together, they didn't bond because they were blood. These two opposites bonded because they chose to help each other. If the macguffin that brought Renato and Asher together had been more random and the father had simply been left out, the story would likely have been stronger for it.

Score: 6.5/10

"Half Brothers" is rated PG and has a running time of 1 hours and 36 minutes. It is showing in local theaters where they are open.

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