All I knew about Emilio Estevez's film The Way, was that he and father Martin Sheen were puddle jumping across the country stopping at Wal Mart to promote it. I wanted to go down and see them when they came to KC, but my allegience to my job had me firmly fixed to the grindstone that day, and I skipped it.
Having now seen the film, I wish I had gone that day, if only to have an even greater connection with this wonderful story.
The Way is a story about loss at first, but finds its core in showing the growth that can come from loss, no matter the pain that must be suffered as payment.
This film is not religious in nature, but rather, it is spiritual. Hey, no matter what you believe, at some point or another you have felt connectiveness in your life, to some place or some person. That is what this film taps into. The sense of connection or lack thereof that ebbs and flows with those we hold dear in our lives.
Martin Sheen is Tom. In the opening moments of the film, we learn that his son Daniel has died in an accident in the Pyrenees. He was walking the Camino de Santiago, a Christian pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain, also known as the Way of St. James, and on the first night of his journey, he fell victim to some inclement weather.
Tom has flown in to identify and claim his son's remains, unsure of what led to his life being cut short. When he asks the police official, he first learns of the Camino pilgrimage.
In flashbacks, we gain insight to the sense of regret that Tom has for the deterioration of his relationship with his boy. In very short order, he decides that he will walk The Way with Daniel's ashes.
His journey starts off as a solitary one, with Tom clearly carrying as much pain as he is gear in his pack.
Not by choice, but through proximity, he gains fellow travellers on his journey. Their stories are as checkered and rich as his own and truly, I feel as though I have said too much already, so I will skip their stories and cut straight to this: see this movie.
Each of the characters we meet have a different reason for making their pilgrimage, which is the primary strength of this film...there is so much to grab a hold of. This film is not overly sentimental, which is a credit to Estivez, given the material being presented.
A character in and of itself is the path itself. This film was shot on location, and if ever I would ask to see a film in high def, IMAX, ETX, or whatever, this would be one. I saw it projected digitally, but still there is a filmic quality to it. While this added weight in the form of grainy charm, I would have like high res shots of many of the beautiful locales featured.
This is an impactful drama. I can not think of a person that wouldn't find this film charming, reflective, and overall, uplifting. Yes, the undertones of loss push this handily into the tearjerker category, but only in the best ways possible.
Well acted, well written, and well shot, this film is my pick for some dark horse Oscar nods. Martin Sheen is as wonderful as ever and shows great range bringing honesty to the redemptive highs and depressive lows any father who had lost a child would feel.
Kudos to Emilio and company for making a fine film, self-promoting, and hopefully ending up with a fine piece if art that reaches a wide audience over time.
The Camino pilgrimege is real, and this film was inspired by Emilio's son Taylor, and his father (Sheen) on a driving trip they took along The Camino in 2003. Taylor fell in love with a girl on the trip and that girl would become his wife, giving special meaning to the whole concept of the Camino. Being such a filmic family, the material was rife for some kind of treatment, Sheen initially suggesting a documentary. Emilio wanted to go bigger, and I for one am glad. It was worth it.
5 of 5 Horns for The Way.