The movie “The Way” takes place on the pilgrimage route across northern Spain ending at Santiago de Compostela, a goal of pilgrims for over 1,000 years. The plot, what there is of it, revolves around one man’s journey of self discovery and can be summarized as “walk some, talk some.” But the movie for me was still enjoyable, although far from perfect.
The movie stars Martin Sheen as Tom Avery, as a California opthamologist who has recently lost his wife. It was written, directed, and produced by Martin’s son Emilio Estevez (not Charlie). Who also has a small part as Tom’s son.
Of course, Tom is successful but unhappy, trapped in the routine of life, and disconnected from the Divine. His son Daniel had told him that he was dropping out of school to go on a journey of discovery. When Tom objects, his son had retorted, “You don’t just live life, you have to experience it” (or something similar).
At the beginning of the movie, Tom goes to Europe to retrieve the body of his son who died while walking “El Camino de Santiago.” Once in France, he decides to complete his son’s journey, a trek of 500 miles. Along the way, he joins up with three other hikers, a joint-smoking overweight Dutchman, a fragile Canadan woman with a dark secret, and a crazy Irish author with writer’s block. Despite the triteness of the characters and plot, it all sort of works. This is because of Martin Sheen’s wonderful performance (and the supporting actors are good also), the beautiful scenery of northern Spain, and the mystique of the pilgrimage.
Sean Means in the SLTrib states that Emilio “puts his foot in every cliche pothole on the path” and calls the confessional moments (put to soft R&R oldies) “maudlin.” He gives the movie 2.5 stars (out of 4). MaryAnn Johanson in the SLCWeekly writes: “Can you make a movie about religious faith anyone can appreciate, even if they don’t agree with it? Hell, yes.” She gives it 3.5 stars. A work colleague wrote the following: “A movie for pilgrims–those who see life as a spiritual journey.”
I personally wish that Emilio would have provided more historical insights into the ancient pilgrimage, but then again I love medieval history. And I can’t decide what to think of the short segment on the Romani (gypsies). They are a controversial minority in western Europe, and Emilio’s effort to discuss their issues seems shallow.
Having said that, I really liked this movie. I have hiked about 200 miles of “El Camino” which I’m sure greatly enhanced by movie experience. I enjoyed every cliche. It was a 2-hour inspirational moment. The movie received an 83 percent approval rating on RottenTomatoes. “The Way” is one of the best movies that no one will see. It is rated PG-13 for some thematic elements, drug use, and smoking.
Recommendation: See it!
For background information about the movie: https://rogerdhansen.wordpress.com/2011/10/22/the-way-movie-background/
For more information about pilgrimages: https://rogerdhansen.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/pilgrimages-why/