Half Brothers movie review & film summary (2020)

The movie begins in the mid-’90s, with a boy and his cool dad, Flavio (Juan Pablo Espinosa), who happily indulge in mischief and flying airplanes. But when the economy tanks, Flavio heads north and never returns, leaving a young boy to grow up in anger and resentment. Now a grown man, Renato is caustic and has no friends—yet he somehow managed to find himself a fiancée with a small boy of her own. A call from his dying father’s new wife brings that rage to the surface, yet when he goes to the States to say his goodbyes, he instead learns he has an annoying half brother, Asher (Connor Del Rio), and now has to solve his father’s last riddle to find out the truth behind his life’s story. 

Flavio’s story about coming to America to find work is an infinitely more compelling story than the boy’s bickering road trip. He discovers a cruel immigration system, racism against Mexicans and at first, very little money. But he also finds his way into opportunity and the kindness of others. Unfortunately, his tale is told in stop-and-go fragments as his sons piece together his journey. Sitting in the car with the half brothers of the movie is just short of punishing. Separately, they’re pretty rough to tolerate on their own. Renato has the makings of a low-grade socio-path, thinking only in unfeeling logic and unsympathetic to anyone he perceives as lesser than he is. Asher is by all accounts a stand-in for all the terrible stereotypes about Americans. He’s entitled, rude, lazy, hasn’t a work ethic in sight and talks for hours without saying anything at all. In short: he’s Renato’s antithesis. But instead of the Odd Couple-like match-up working as comedic fuel, it sputters. Espinosa and Del Rio have little to build on than their characters’ flimsy outline, and neither can really make their rapport work.

From the outset, the narrative begins with a strained premise, one that could have easily been reduced to a quick bedside confession were it not for Flavio’s twisted scavenger hunt. Ali LeRoi and Eduardo Cisneros’ story, which was brought to the screen by Cisneros and Jason Shuman, holds little surprise in the brothers’ tale. They fight, they make up, they fight and make up, repeated until the end. There’s a bit more care given to Flavio’s side of things, although the dots connecting the threads of his story feel fairly disjointed. 

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