"The Way" is a powerful and inspirational story about family, friends, and the challenges we face while navigating this ever-changing and complicated world. Martin Sheen plays Tom, an American doctor who comes to St. Jean Pied de Port, France to collect the remains of his adult son (played by Emilio Estevez), killed in the Pyrenees in a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of Saint James. Rather than return home, Tom decides to embark on the historical pilgrimage to honor his son's desire to finish the journey. What Tom doesn't plan on is the profound impact the journey will have on him and his "California Bubble Life."
This is truly an enjoyable film. In terms of storyline and dialogue, it is minimalist. And yet, the director, Emilio Estevez (Martin Sheen’s son) has captured a depth and richness: realistically demonstrating the principle of “less is more” through emotional sparseness, visual beauty, and keen perspective. It is a “feel-good” film, not in your typical canned Hollywood-style, but because it touches a universally human chord: how each of us navigates the wounds of life. The theme of suffering, forgiveness, and connection are delicately interwoven into a realistic journey, and I found myself vicariously arising each morning with the characters in anticipation of another day on the path—not knowing what the day would bring, or how the events would change my/their direction, but strong in resolution to keep going even as I was being challenged to surrender to the winds of destiny. This film may not rock your world, but it will imperceptibly loosen the rigid corners of your psyche and lift you up into a celebration of life.
A Modern Canterbury Tales
Crossing the Pyrenees and Basque country, then winding their way across northern Spain to the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela, pilgrims have walked the 800 km Camino de Santiago for over a thousand years. The reasons for undertaking such a journey are as varied as the pilgrims themselves. Most of them are seeking something that has little or nothing to do with religion, yet taps into a deep, nameless yearning for connection to the mystery.
In “The Way,” four of these pilgrims find themselves thrown together by chance. As their stories unfold we meet Tom, played by Martin Sheen, completing the journey begun by his estranged son who died in a sudden mountain storm shortly after setting off. He is joined by: a jovial bear of a Dutchman, hoping to regain his wife’s affection; an acerbic Canadian woman, trying to exorcise the anger built up in an abusive marriage; and an Irish author who masks his writer’s block by talking nonstop.
The acting is superb, though some of the characters may have been a bit overdrawn at the beginning. Writer-Director Emilio Estevez, who is Martin Sheen’s son and plays his son in the movie, deftly interweaves the development of the personal stories of the four main characters with the hardships and camaraderie of the Pilgrim’s Way. He takes us through lush countryside and rocky hills, stopping in local inns, gathering with other pilgrims in the evening around meals, and then retiring to Spartan dormitories to start off again in the morning.
Gradually the experience of the Camino works its way into the spirits of the pilgrims. They become mirrors for each other, helping to strip away the protective layers that have preserved their pain and isolation, and with their new vulnerability freeing them to feel and connect once more. In the end, the message of this poignant film is that opening our hearts to others is the real miracle. Connecting with them through kindness and laughter and joy is the magic that invites the presence of God.
A lovely, moving film.
Find a screening near you at: theway-themovie.com