The trailer for Half Brothers looked funny and I am always willing to give funny a try. I thought the concept sounded interesting, two half brothers finding out about each other for the first time and sent on an adventure by their father. While it proved to be as funny as promised, what I hadn’t expected was the endearing quality of the relationship between the brothers and the realistic portrayal of Hispanics surviving in America. It was sweet, honest, and the goat steals the show.
Directed by Luke Greenfield, from a screenplay by Eduardo Cisneros and Jason Shuman, Half Brothers follows successful Mexican aviation executive, Renato (Luis Gerardo Méndez) whose father left him when he was a boy to go to the United States to seek a way to support his family. His father never returned so Renato is shocked when he receives a call that his father is ill and wants to see him. On his arrival at the hospital, Renato finds out that he also has a half brother, Asher (Connor Del Rio) and their father wants them to take a road trip together, tracing the path he took as an immigrant from Mexico to America. While Renato is reluctant, he joins Asher to take the journey, learning about his father, Asher, and himself along the way. But Renato’s wedding is in five days. Will he get the answers he and Asher are looking for in time or will he miss his wedding in the process?
The premise for Half Brothers follows a very different concept of brothers than the typical American comedy. In my recollection, while there have been films that explored the relationship even in comedies, this is the first one involving half brothers and the first film with Hispanic leads. While some of the comedy is typical, the exploration of the two brothers’ relationship is what makes this engaging. The pair are very much the example of an odd couple, with Renato very straight-laced and Asher very relaxed. Most of the comedy is about the clash between their natures and their cultures, Renato having worked most of his life and Asher struggling to figure out his life. The pair are constantly at war with each other but learn from the other. Asher teaches Renato to relax and have empathy while Renato keeps them focused on their goal. I love the way the pair learn about each other and their father. I also love that neither had the perfect relationship with their father and it is only when they take the time to talk that they figure out what they have in common.
The comedy is predictable. Most of the humor is in the clash between cultures. Renato believes Mexico is as strong as America. I don’t happen to think this is incorrect. He’s worked hard for his life but his father leaving him has taught him to rely only on himself. Asher loves having a brother and teaches him to rely on family. Asher also doesn’t like to work hard and it is in these moments that he derails the pair from their journey that are the funniest, like when he steals a goat from a petting zoo, while Renato falls asleep. Even knowing the setup, I still found the film funny. But the goat, from eating gas tanks to bouncing on a bed, is the highlight of the humor, stealing the show.
One of the other elements I wasn’t expecting was the rich conversation on the immigrant experience in America. Having lived in Arizona my entire life, it’s impossible to not be aware of some of the difficulties but this film truly highlighted how hard it can be to go to a country and try to eke out a living for your family, far from what you know in a completely different language. In the film, Renato’s father is an engineer but when he arrives, he’s unable to use those skills until he’s lucky enough to meet someone who helps him. But most immigrants aren’t that lucky. Even with that experience, it also shows what can happen if you’re picked up by the border patrol, even when you’re here legitimately. I found it realistic, interesting, and a bittersweet counterpoint to the comedic moments in the film.
Both leads in the film do a fantastic job with the material. Luis Gerardo Méndez is dynamic as Renato, his portrayal of the character as tightly wound and unable to connect with people made the character deeply interesting and his interactions with Connor Del Rio as Asher were entertaining. The pair behaved like brothers, even when they barely knew each other. And the chemistry between the pair helps the film be both believable and likable. Both actors are likable, even when they’re trying to kill each other. I also appreciated that the writers didn’t attempt to make the characters instantly like each other. In the end, that made the relationship even more appealing.
If you like comedies about brothers, but want a slightly more realistic version with Hispanic leads, this might resonate with you. The humor is predictable but solid. The goat is the highlight, creating the funniest scenes but the realistic relationship, as well as the depiction of immigrants, makes this a film worth seeing. I loved the relationships, I loved the growth of the characters, and I found it completely endearing.