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The Way

The Way

What She said:

She

I’ll be honest, a drama starring Martin Sheen is hardly a film that would interest me.  In fact, I saw the poster for The Way on Amazon several times, weighed whether or not I should watch, and ultimately always decided against it.  The movie was described as an older gent sort of finding himself—so a coming-of-age film for my parents’ generation.  But eventually I warmed up to the notion.  If nothing else, it looked like it would have good scenery.  Well, I’m glad that I did decide to give this rather simple and likely low-budget film a viewing.  It was heartwarming, emotionally charged, and relatively funny at times.

Martin Sheen plays Thomas Avery, an American ophthalmologist—that’s an eye doctor—who is notified that his beloved son Daniel was killed in a storm while hiking in the Pyrenees of France.  He was walking the Camino de Santiago aka the Way of St. James, which is apparently a Catholic pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain.  At one point in the movie, Tom’s character is told that it’ll take about a month to make the trek, so it’s got to be pretty long. 

It’s Tom’s responsibility to go to France to identify and claim his son’s body, and this is a very troubling for the fella.  Tom doesn’t even know what he wants to do with the body, bring it back to the U.S. and bury it or cremate it.  His son seems to have been a bit of a free spirit and an intellectual who had decided to make the most of his years on earth and travel around the globe.  Ultimately, Tom decides that the most appropriate thing to do is to have the body cremated and spread the ashes along the route of the Way of St. James.  That means that Tom himself must make the pilgrimage.  Not easy for a fella who is likely north of 70 years old. 

Along the way, Tom has several encounters with the spirit of Daniel, played by real-life son Emilio Estevez.  He also befriends a pack of fellow hikers, including Joost (Yorick van Wageningen), a sloth of a Dutchman who is hoping to lose weight on the trek, Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), a Canadian who claims to be making the pilgrimage in an attempt to quit smoking, and Jack (James Nesbitt), an Irish travel writer who is struggling to chronicle the journey.  For Tom, the hike is a test of both his physical and emotional endurance.  He’s in decent shape for his age, but it’s quite a distance.  But more than that, he’s still coping with his son’s death, and his travel companions are not the easiest people to get along with.  As Tom walks the Way of St. James, he learns a thing or two about patience, perseverance, and what it truly means to live.

Well, this movie certainly made me want to travel to Europe.  The Way of St. James seems absolutely beautiful!  One thing that my husband so poignantly made light of is that the locals depicted in the film don’t seem particularly warm, but hey, let’s keep that French stigma alive.  The movie was written, produced, and directed by Emilio Estevez, and apparently he drew upon his own family’s experience on the Way of St. James to create the story.  He also wrote the film with his father in mind as the main character.

The Way

While you can tell that this movie was strung together on a fairly low budget, it’s also well done.  The only indicator we have of its lack of cost is probably the cast of general unknowns.  I admit that I have seen James Nesbitt before, and I know that Deborah Kara Unger has also gotten some work in the past.  But this isn’t a bunch of A-listers flaunting a budget for a travelogue movie.  It’s much more subtle than that. 

If I can find a fault with this film, it would be that some of the characters seem a little too simple.  It’s indicated that there is greater depth to each of them, but also not explicitly explored.  I guess I can write that off to being rather authentic.  I mean, Tom probably would not have been able to dig too deep into their pasts and true motivations for making the journey during their time together, nor was he really interested in knowing too much about them.  Frankly, he didn’t even like them for much of the trek.

Aside from that, I found The Way to be interesting, beautiful, and inspiring.  Martin Sheen could be surprisingly funny at times, and was *gasp* somewhat relatable, even to me.  I would describe this as a “nice movie,” and can think of a few people who I think would really like it.  So much of the movie was filmed directly on the Way of St. James, and so there’s a feeling of authenticity to it all.  In fact, many of the people who appear in the backgrounds of shots are actual tourists who are making the pilgrimage.  You can really tell that a lot of love went into the development of this movie, and it shows. 

Don’t expect to be blown away by any of the production elements.  While we are privileged to some beautiful scenery in this movie, you can also tell that the cinematography was meant to be authentic, not over-the-top.  The lighting and sound are also very simple—just capturing the journey as it truly is.  I think the most powerful portion of the film, both visually and through the story, is when the group arrives at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.  It was a spiritually uplifting moment.

Overall, I really liked this movie, despite a few flaws.  I’m ready to make my pilgrimage.  Just need to book my ticket.

Thumbs up.

The Way

What He said:

He

Death is a funny thing. And by thatI mean funny as in strange, not haha funny. It can come in many forms and people handle it in many different ways. It affects people differently and so they react in a variety of ways. How people cope with death is a big part of this movie’s theme.

Tom Avery (Martin Sheen) is a very different man from his son Daniel (Emiilo Estevez). Tom is an eye doctor with his own practice. He believes in structure. He has his daily routines and habits. Daniel flies by the seat of his pants. He is an educated man, but I’m not sure he has a steady job and that’s’ because he chooses for it to be that way. When he tells Tom that he is going to stop pursuing his Ph.D. his father is upset with him. He’s even more bothered when he tells him he is stopping his education to pursue a backpacking trip overseas. Tom thinks Daniel doesn’t have any structure or goals to his life and this is something that creates division between father and son.

The Way

The trip Daniel is planning is a pilgrimage called Camino de Santiago, which translates to, The Way of St. James. It’s a trek across Spain that ends at a cathedral where the remains of St. James are rumored to be buried. Tom doesn’t understand how someone an simply afford the luxury of putting their life on hold for a month-long (possibly longer depending on how fast you walk) vacation. It’s not something that resonates with him.

Sadly, Daniel dies on the trip. The movie doesn’t go into great detail how, but implies he had some kind of accident during the hike. The last time they spoke, Tom told Daniel he doesn’t think he’s focused enough and the way he lives (constantly traveling, no steady work, etc.) is basically the wrong way to go about living.

Tom flies to France to collect Daniel’s remains, which have been cremated. While in France, Tom meets the police officer, who was handling Daniel’s case.  Captain Henri (Tcheky Karyo) also happened to have gone on the pilgrimage Daniel was on. He’s done it several times in fact.  That motivates Tom to complete the trek on behalf of his son (and maybe for himself too).

Along the way, Tom meets several people, some of which tag along with him, much to his dismay. Joost (Yorick van Wageningen) is a chubby, but jolly, man from Amsterdam. He says he is doing the pilgrimage to lose weight for his brother’s wedding. Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger) is a Canadian who claims to be doing the trip to kick her smoking habit. Jack (James Nesbitt) is an Irishman who is making the trek to overcome a severe case of writer’s block. Over the course of the trip they get to know one another. They laugh together, cry together, and get to know each other quite well; even though Tom resists most of the way. He has a lot of trouble opening up to them. Not that he has to, they are a bunch of strangers after all. But at a certain point, after traveling with them for a while, you’d expect you’d know a thing or two about them.

The Way

Emilio Estevez wrote, directed, and starred in this movie. I wondered what it was like being his father’s boss in this movie? Regardless, it didn’t affect the final product, as both men did a solid job.

This was a very simply and small movie, but funny, sad, uplifting, and an interesting movie. It reminded me of something along the lines of Little Miss Sunshine in the sense that it wasn’t a big or grand production, but it kept your interest the entire time. I can say that I was genuinely entertained and intrigued about what was going to happen next.
I’m also a sucker for movies that have that while unconventional and impromptu family thing going on. It’s easy to be close to somebody you have known forever, but there’s always been something appealing to me to people who are thrown together in a unique situation and form a bond. To me, it seems like a very strong and authentic bond. This movie also has some nice scenery.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on August 6, 2014.

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