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  • Jared Huizenga

Half Brothers: Half Heartwarming, Half Aggravating

Few things are as effective or overused in film than the narrative of family coming together in the face of adversity. The same can be said of the opposites bond on a road trip story.


But despite featuring not one but two tried and true tropes, ‘Half Brothers’ manages to be mostly off-putting by glossing over the actions of one of its main characters.

Luis Gerardo Mendez (left) stars as Renato and Connor Del Rio (right) stars as Asher in director Luke Greenfield’s “Half Brothers,” a Focus Features release. (Credit: John Golden Britt/Focus Features)

The movie starts out 2+ decades ago with Renato (Luis Gerardo Méndez) narrating a happy flashback of his youth, including a stable, happy family life and all sorts of shenanigans with his father/best friend, Flavio (Juan Pablo Espinosa).


Things, however, take a sharp turn during the Mexican peso crisis of the mid-’90s. The peso has been devalued against the U.S. dollar and soon the jobs begin to evaporate – Flavio’s included.


Determined to find work and continue providing for his family, Flavio sets out for America … and never returns.


Twenty-five years down the road, Renato – now a successful aviation executive with no love for good ole’ USA – gets word that Flavio is on his deathbed and wants to see his son one last time. Still angry with the father that abandoned him, Renato begrudgingly makes the trip and meets his younger, much less motivated half-brother, Asher (Connor Del Rio).


Rather than explain his side of the story to his sons face-to-face, Flavio instead sends them on a cross country road trip, retracing his story and introducing them to his supporting cast of characters. All the answers they seek, he promises, will come at the end of the journey.

Juan Pablo Espinosa (left) stars as Flavio and Ian Inigo (right) stars as young Renato in director Luke Greenfield’s “Half Brothers,” a Focus Features release. (Credit: John Golden Britt/Focus Features)

The formula for ‘Half Brothers’ is pretty simple: polar opposites must work together to achieve a common goal. And at times it works.


Renato and Asher often butt heads and bicker like siblings do, but they quickly (probably too quickly) form a bond with one another and slowly begin to realize that neither of them had the father they deserved. Both have likeable and unlikeable qualities and Méndez and Del Rio play well off each other – the former being more animated in his delivery and the latter more laid back.


If you can’t tell, this is the “heartwarming” part of the movie. As someone with half-siblings that I didn’t meet until I was an adult (and they almost were), this part felt genuine and relatable, albeit a little rushed perhaps. Given the extreme nature of Renato’s abandonment and the circumstances that brought them together, I don’t think a meaningful relationship could be developed so quickly, especially when heart-to-heart conversations are replaced with ridiculous situations and silly banter. But overall, these are minor missteps.

Luis Gerardo Mendez (left) stars as Renato and Connor Del Rio (right) stars as Asher in director Luke Greenfield’s “Half Brothers,” a Focus Features release. (Credit: John Golden Britt/Focus Features)

The “aggravating” part is how tidily Flavio’s story is handled. He’s painted as some sort of sympathetic


hero throughout. with only minor blemishes despite abandoning his original family and screwing up the other one. Given his seemingly pure intentions, it’s not fair to totally vilify him, but it’s equally unfair to think that arranging an elaborate scavenger hunt is enough to cover for 20+ years of negligence.


Flavio’s negligence, and the downplaying of it, virtually negates the genuinely funny and thoughtful moments that are scattered throughout.


★★ of ★★★★★