From the minds of Luke Greenfield, Eduardo Cisneros, and Jason Shuman comes a film about love, loss, and meeting halfway. Full of an abundance of heart, Half Brothers encourages us to rediscover that which means the most to us in life before it’s too late while tackling political themes in a comedy made for all audiences.
If you’re familiar with Instructions Not Included by Eugenio Derbez, then you already know that you might be in for a festival of tears, tissues not included. Cisneros was an uncredited writer for the 2013 film. This time around, he is not only a credited writer but also a producer. His collaborator Jason Shuman and him set off to bring forth a story about two very different people finding common ground.
The film focuses on Renato (Luis Gerardo Mendez), a successful Mexican aviation executive. Early on, he finds out he has an American half-brother he never knew about, the free-spirited Asher (Connor Del Rio). This news comes to him when he learns that his father (Juan Pablo Espinosa) is very ill. The two very different half-brothers then go on a road trip together for a scavenger hunt their ailing father planned. This way, Renato may finally know why he never came back for him.
While the story itself is easy to follow, the weight of what Greenfield explores lays heavy on the heart. Despite its comedic nature, it does deal with the passing of a parent and issues of abandonment. Having gone through a similar experience myself, there wasn’t a dry eye while watching this film. However, there is a perfectly good balance between the emotional parts, and the humor that is very reminiscent of Instructions Not Included.
At times, the comedy tiptoes over the line between serving its purpose and becoming a gimmick following a formula that could come off as repetitive to some viewers. Fortunately, the narrative saves itself from falling into that trap of trying to smooth over the difficult moments.
The film really dives deep into the pain of abandonment through Renato’s story, perfectly portrayed by Mendez to create a well-rounded character. But it is important to note that his father Flavio doesn’t leave because he wants to. Oftentimes, when films center Latinx characters, it depicts the paternal figure as unreliable. Derbez’s film, for example, depicts him as a playboy. However, Renato’s father is not like that at all. He is a man one can describe as easy to like with a kind heart.
He leaves his son and his family behind because there are no jobs left in Mexico, risking it all by crossing the border to the United States in hopes of being able to provide for his family and eventually return. Unfortunately, we know how the story ends from the first few minutes of set-up within the film. While Half Brothers does choose to explore many political issues plaguing Mexico’s image due to the reinvented depiction of it by the United States, it is not a political film. It states its position clearly without taking away from the main point of the story: family.
In the end, the film has a wonderful pace, compelling characters, and an ending that will hopefully satisfy many. In its simplest form, it is one about two men learning to accept each other into their lives. – Josie Meléndez
Are you excited for Half Brothers? It will be available in theaters on December 4th.