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"The Way" is a powerful and inspirational story about family, friends, and the challenges we face while navigating this ever-changing and complicated world. Martin Sheen plays Tom, who comes to St. Jean Pied de Port, France to collect the remains of his adult son , killed in the Pyrenees in a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago,. Rather than return home, Tom decides to embark on the historical pilgrimage to honor his son's desire to finish the journey. What Tom doesn't plan on is the profound impact the journey will have on him. From the unexpected and, oftentimes, amusing experiences along "The Way," Tom begins to learn what it means to be a citizen of the world again. Through his unresolved relationship with his son, he discovers the difference between "the life we live and the life we choose."
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In "The Way," four of these pilgrims find themselves thrown together by chance. As their stories unfold we meet Tom, played by Martin Sheen, completing the journey begun by his estranged son who died in a sudden mountain storm shortly after setting off. He is joined by: a jovial bear of a Dutchman, hoping to regain his wife's affection; an acerbic Canadian woman, trying to exorcise the anger built up in an abusive marriage; and an Irish author who masks his writer's block by talking nonstop.
The acting is superb, though some of the characters may have been a bit overdrawn at the beginning. Writer-Director Emilio Estevez, who is Martin Sheen's son and plays his son in the movie, deftly interweaves the development of the personal stories of the four main characters with the hardships and camaraderie of the Pilgrim's Way. He takes us through lush countryside and rocky hills, stopping in local inns, gathering with other pilgrims in the evening around meals, and then retiring to Spartan dormitories to start off again in the morning.
Gradually the experience of the Camino works its way into the spirits of the pilgrims. They become mirrors for each other, helping to strip away the protective layers that have preserved their pain and isolation, and with their new vulnerability, freeing them to feel and connect once more. In the end, the message of this poignant film is that opening our hearts to others is the real miracle. Connecting with them through kindness and laughter and joy is the magic that invites the presence of God.
A lovely, moving film.
As an apostate Catholic and unabashed atheist, I wondered whether I would get anything out a movie, where the primary protagonist, Tom Avery, decides to honor his deceased son Daniel, by walking the El Camino de Santiago, a thousand-year old religious pilgrimage route. Nevertheless, I put aside my reservations and watched the film.
"The Way" quickly drew me into its story. I shared Tom's grief upon learning Daniel had died in a storm, just one day after starting to walk the El Camino, and then felt Tom's resolute determination to complete the five-hundred-mile walk on behalf of Daniel. As the story unfolded, I realized Tom's pilgrimage was a symbolic effort to give meaning and closure to his son's death.
"The Way" gave me a roller coaster of emotions: laughter, sorrow, tears, frustration, and finally happiness and joy. I felt for Tom and the other characters in the film, and cared about what happened to them. What more could one ask of a movie?
Does it tell a heart warming story of struggle and redemption? Yes. Does it allow the exploration of how family dynamics work when the family dynamic is dysfunctional until tragedy strikes? Yes. Does it develop each of the characters from what they admit their concerns are to what their souls really need? Yes it does. Is it set in along a gorgeous route in Northern Spain that will inspire you to pack your bags and see for yourself (whether walking as a pilgrim or touring as a tourist)? Most definitely.
So get the film, pop some popcorn, and sit back and enjoy the show.
With this preparation, I couldn't help watch the movie less as fiction than as personal reflection by Sheen and his son, Emilio Estevez, who directed. Years ago Martin Sheen did in fact experience a crisis which culminated in his getting sober and reembracing the religion of his youth, which process this pilgrimage continued. And yes the portrayal of that journey presented here was spectacular.