Sometimes I really appreciate it when movies are straightforward with their titles because it tells me exactly what I am in for. “Half Brothers” is one such film. From the onset and from the synopsis, the film makes it clear that it’s about brothers and father-sons reuniting and bonding. However, the writers couldn’t conjure up the writing to back that sentiment.
Luke Greenfield’s “Half Brothers” is about Renato (Luis Gerardo Méndez) and Asher (Connor Del Rio), the titular half-brothers who go on a road trip to solve a mystery given to them by their deceased father Flavio (Juan Pablo Espinosa). The two brothers are polar opposites of each other. Renato is an engineer and a man who takes himself seriously. He has the emotional capacity of walnut and his fiancée implies that it’s because his father left him and his mother to go to the USA. Asher on the other hand is a chill-out “ideas guy” who is somehow an amalgamation of the worst stereotypes of Americans.
Regarding stereotyping, the film takes plenty of digs at the conventions Americans have of Mexicans and vice versa. There are plenty of dialogues regarding Mexican ziplining and American laziness. While some are played off for laughs, others are meant to showcase the racism against Mexicans. In one scene Renato is in a detention facility and there he watches groups of Mexicans put inside a fenced room with nothing but some foil blankets.
It is this one scene (among others) that makes Renato understand what his father went through in the USA when he tried to cross the border to earn a living for his family. So the political commentary does make sense. What doesn’t make any sense is the reason why Flavio never visited Renato even though he promised that he would return. The film tells us that he married an American woman and had a son with her after divorcing Renato’s mother. It tells us that he wanted to visit Renato but never could.
But the movie also tells us that he became rich and accomplished in the USA. So what stopped him from visiting Renato? Surely not shame because he doesn’t have any. Also, Flavio clearly fails to be a great father even to Asher, just because his second son doesn’t share his football or airplane-flying passions. So in one lifetime, he has let down two of his sons. One who was similar to him and one who wasn’t.
Overall, it’s very difficult to reconcile with Flavio or feel sympathy for him even though Renato and Asher do forgive their father. The literal road trip journey for the two brothers involved plenty of fighting and making up before repeating that same thing for an hour in a row. The movie could have certainly used better-crafted scenes to showcase their bonding moments.
Also, it’s truly amazing how the movie completely sidelines both the mothers in the story. We are never told how Renato’s mother raised him in Mexico where jobs were dwindling or what Asher’s mom felt about the whole situation with Renato.
Overall, “Half Brothers” is certainly a watchable movie of two brothers reconnecting and learning to set aside their differences to forgive their father for his shortcomings.
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