Opening 21 Jun 2012
Director Emilio Estevez’ script – inspired by A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim’s Route into Spain by Jack Hitt – centers around widowed Californian ophthalmologist Tom Avery (Martin Sheen). Set more – or maybe less – content in his ways, nothing is further from his mind than a pilgrimage his son Daniel (Emilio Estevez) has suggested they undertake together. But Daniel’s wish will come true in an unexpected way. He loses his life on the famous Camino de Compostela (or The Way of Saint James), a Christian pilgrimage-path that has been the most extensive such route in Europe for 1000 years. Tom has to pick up his son’s remains in France. Once there – at one of the starting points of this trail close to the Spanish border – he is confronted with his grief and wanting to understand why his son made this journey. He decides to take the walk himself, Daniel’s equipment and ashes on his back.
People from all walks of life – thousands every year and for as many different reasons – are walking ‘The Way’. There are worshippers and seekers, people in personal crisis, people who need to lose a bad habit or a few pounds. Though Tom would have preferred to keep to himself, an illustrious band of middle-aged people forms around him, all representing different quests. Yorick van Wageningen (Joost), Deborah Kara Unger (Sarah) and James Nesbitt (Jack) convincingly inhabit their parts and contribute to a great chemistry; only the dialogues between father and son (flashbacks and imaginary) are more contrived than expected even between two estranged people. The film feels very real – almost documentary. It is filmed with natural light only, and the pace allows settling into the rhythm of this long and often onerous journey that – I imagine – may have a subtle effect at first, but might result in big life-changes. Tom will emerge more in touch with himself and on a new path. But moreover, Estevez succeeds also in making this a personal and emotional journey for the audience. (Carola A)
A family affair begins with filmmaker, screenwriter, director and actor Emilio Estevez when he invites his father, actor Martin Sheen, to star in his latest independent feature film The Way. The storyline is taken from a personal experience Estevez describes when he moves to Spain and explores his feelings of having a son live a long way from the family. At the same time Sheen and his grandson (Estevez’s son) trekked on the 800 kilometer stretch of The Way of Saint James (El Camino de Santiago) through the majestic Pyrenees Mountains along the Spanish-French border. Estevez uses the background of the trek to humanize the journey one takes when suffering a great loss. Hang-in with the slow-moving narrative for the value in the journey shared and not the destiny it achieves in Estevez’s deeply moving portrayal of The Way.
A sudden trekking accident takes the life of Dr. Tom’s (Sheen) estranged adult son, Daniel (Estevez) while on the infamous El Camino de Santiago trail from France to Galicia, Spain. The grief-stricken widower Dr. Tom must fly to Spain to identify his son’s body (shortly after laying his wife to rest) and bring his remains home for a proper burial. The authorities are not able to give Dr. Tom much information regarding Daniel’s death because he was traveling alone and the facts of his missed steps are sketchy. The only help they can offer is a short timeline from the date Daniel officially registered for the trek to the discovery of Daniel’s body after a big storm. Dr. Tom is given the backpack with Daniel’s meager belongings and just the sight of these earthly possessions conjures up the painful feelings of remorse and regret of time not taken to get to know his son. Dr. Tom decides that the best way to eulogize Daniel’s life, while working through his own mourning, is to cremate Daniel’s body, gather his remains in a special box and finish the trek in Daniel’s honor sprinkling his life along The Way.
Dr. Tom learns plenty about his son and himself while on the El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage but not without the help of a comical band of travels he picks up along The Way: the European hardnosed Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), the Dutchman pothead, Joost (Yorik van Wageningen) and the Irish novelist with writers block, Jack (James Nesbitt). The eccentric foursome comes to share a difficult journey together, and while the trek experience partially affects each one’s destiny, the bond of friendship that develops is their surprise discovery. (Karen Pecota)