CAPSULE: Emilio Estevez produces, writes, directs, and even acts in this film starring ,his father, Martin Sheen. Tom Avery (Sheen), an American eye doctor travels to France to pick up the body of his son (Estevez) who died on the first day of making a pilgrimage. The route he was to take was the Camino de Santiago, a Christian pilgrimage road more than a millennium old. It goes from the Pyrenees in France into Spain and ends in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. Tom decides to complete the pilgrimage for his son, distributing his son's ashes along the way. One at a time, three other pilgrims join him. They travel together and get to know each other. This is a quiet, warm film that some will find actually spiritual. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Actor Martin Sheen had heard since he was a boy about the road that Christian pilgrims have taken for more than a thousand years to visit the remains of St. James. The road winds through the hills of France and Spain with beautiful scenery and old inns along the way. In 2003 Sheen had walked part of the Camino and found it a transcendent experience. He suggested to his son Emilio Estevez (the son who is not so frequently in the news) that he might make a film about or set on the road. Emilio wrote, produced, directed, and even appeared in the resulting film.
Ophthalmologist Tom Avery (Sheen) does not like how his son Danny (Estevez) is not interested in living a prosperous life. Against Tom's advice Danny is going to travel, see the world, and take in another lifestyle. Then bad news comes from France. Danny had started to walk the Camino de Santiago, but was caught in a storm after only one day and was killed. Tom travels to France to pick up the body and bring it home. But as a final gift to his son instead, he has it cremated and intends to spread the ashes along the Camino. In a dark mood he sets out to walk the route and spread ashes. At first he keeps running into Joost (Yorick van Wageningen), a Dutch traveler walking the route. Soon there are others and he cannot get rid of them. There is Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), an ill-tempered Canadian who smokes too much. And there is Jack (James Nesbitt), a strange Irish writer collecting stories for a book about his journey. They walk the road by day amongst beautiful hill-country scenery. They visit churches to admire the medieval splendor. They talk. They confess to each other. At night they camp or stay in simple inns and enjoy the local cuisine. The four travelers talk; they argue; they even come to blows. But not much happens. This is an adventure film, but not an action film. You will come to know (or think you know) four people very well. It is just about how walking the pilgrimage changes each. This is a "road picture" if there ever was one. Watching the film is much like just putting your mind to rest and taking the road.
Just as there is no doubt where the four are going, there is little doubt where the film is going. The four squabbling travelers will transform into four spiritual pilgrims who will share a life-long bond. The travelers will face their own preconceptions and prejudices. Everything about the film is peaceful or leads to peace. Even the colors are a little muted to not be too strident. Estevez based the film on stories by author Jack Hitt, and it is probably no coincidence that the writer-character is named Jack.
There is a deep quiet in this film, a mood that will not be found in any other film this year. The viewer will come away feeling connected to France, Spain, history, and humanity. I rate THE WAY +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1441912/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_way_2011/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2011 Mark R. Leeper