How many road trip buddies have been made since the beginning of cinema? Too many, right? How many of them were actually good? I found one from a most unexpected place in Luke Greenfield’s Half Brothers. It’s heartfelt, funny, and fresh—that’s what makes it work.
The story opens with Flavio Murguia (Juan Pablo Espinosa) and his son Renato flying a radio-controlled airplane through their home town and causing mayhem. When the Mexican economy crashes, Flavio is forced to head to the United States to find work leaving Renato and his mother behind. It doesn’t take long before Flavio breaks his promise to Renato and never returns.
Jump to today, Renato (Luis Gerardo Méndez) is now the owner of a successful airplane business. He just went off on an American business reporter about his disdain for his northern neighbor. On the bright side, he’s about to get married to Tere (Bianca Marroquin), but finds this bitterness from his father’s absence has left him with few friends, along with a soon-to-be step-son he can’t relate to.
Just days before his wedding, Renato receives word his father is dying and needs to fly to the U.S. at Flavio’s request. Renato refuses, but Tere insists he go to find closure and confront his daddy issues. When Renato arrives in the States, he meets his father’s American wife and son, Asher (Connor Del Rio), his half brother.
Renato takes this opportunity to finally tell off his father and emphatically declare that he wants nothing to do with his current wife and son. There has to be a twist, and it’s a hunt for a possible lost sister named Eloise. Why would Renato go on this hunt? Because Tere won’t let him come back until he’s found resolution with his family.
“When Renato arrives in the States, he meets his father’s American wife and son…”
Half Brothers is a fantastic comedy that comes out of nowhere. Honestly, these long-lost brothers/buddy/road trip movies have been done before many times, but again, if you find a fresh take on an old trope, your film will stand out from the pack, and Half Brothers stands out.
What’s fresh about it? First, there’s a cultural twist. While the movie opens in Mexico, this is not a foreign film, but more a joint venture. Going against stereotypes, Renato is a successful businessman, and Asher is an influencer (more an unemployed slacker). Some of the highlights come as Renato finds himself continually fighting American stereotypes of Mexican citizens as gardeners and fond of ziplining. There’s a touching moment when he’s begging ICE to deport him and is confronted with the harsh realities at the U.S. border.
In terms of a story about fathers and sons, you can probably figure out what happens at the end. But the heart of the conflict comes when the two brothers face the mistakes they made and the stubborn positions they held that lead to their estrangement. Ultimately, this family story is filled with moments of laugh-out-loud comedy, and genuine emotion, which sets it above any silly comedy Hollywood can produce.
Saving the best for last, Luis Gerardo Méndez as Renato is absolutely engaging. He’s the star and plays Renato grounded as hell. Connor Del Rio plays an annoying millennial, and somehow I managed to feel great sympathy for him at the end. Jason Shuman and Eduardo Cisneros’ screenplay sets Renato up perfectly, giving us an immediate reason to sympathize with the adult Renato. The joy is seeing this character’s defenses wither away throughout the film and believably find camaraderie with his half-brother. Yes, it’s a spoiler, but is it really?
Good comedies are hard to come by these days. You can not lose with Half Brothers. Having said that, set your expectations low and enjoy the ride.
"…Luis Gerardo Méndez is abolutely engaging...plays Renato grounded as hell."