Running Time: 123 minutes
Director: Emilio Estevez
Cast: Martin Sheen, Deborah Kara Unger, James Nesbitt, Yorick van Wageningen and Emilio Estevez
A father heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while traveling the “El camino de Santiago,” and decides to take the pilgrimage himself.
The Way by Emilio Estevez (Mighty Ducks) is a film that deals with a father coping with the death of his Son. The film’s central character is Tom played by Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now) who has to travel to France to bring the body of his deceased son Daniel back to America. Upon arriving in France Tom realises his Son died attempting the El Camino de Santiago and decides to walk the pilgrimage in his son’s memory.
The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage to the tomb of St James in the city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia north-west Spain. Pilgrims walk thousands of miles; it is deeply personal and religious event for individuals.
Upon his arrival in France Tom learns his son has been cremated, seeing his son’s equipment he decides to walk the Camino with the intention of scattering Daniel’s ashes along the way.
Through flashback sequences it becomes clear that following the death of his mother the father-son relationship had broken down and the two had struggled to talk since. Tom is dismayed by his son’s decision to drop out of education and get out and explore the world. This breakdown is what motivates Tom into undertaking
The film is firmly held together by a fantastic performance by Sheen he is a commanding screen presence who holds the attention of the viewer throughout the picture. His character’s internal conflict is what moves the picture along, starting out as a man who ‘doesn’t stop to smell the flowers’, to someone who comes to embrace the pilgrimage and opens himself up to the world.
A film about a man on a very long walk simply wouldn’t work the director needs a vehicle to get his actor to speak he uses the characters that Tom meets along the Camino to allow dialogue and move the plot along, in doing so the film comes to have similarities to the Wizard Of Oz, each character hoping to find something they had lost along the pilgrimage.
There’s Joost a Dutch man hoping to lose weight for his brother’s wedding. Sarah an aggressive Canadian woman who is seemingly walking the Camino to help her to quit smoking but whose reasons are much more complex. Finally there’s Jack played by local actor James Nesbitt a disillusioned travel writer suffering hoping to find inspiration from the religious elements of the pilgrimage.
Each character brings something to the screen and as the plot progresses the group become closer and finish the Camino as friends.
Admittingly the film is slightly overlong but at heart it is a sincere well-intentioned film that deals with grief and faith that may feel old-fashioned to some. In a current climate of 3D and CG dominated blockbusters the film’s strength lies in its ability to tell a story well that is thoughtful and emotionally engaging.