The Way (I) (2010)
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Although, no longer a spring chicken, I spent over 2 hours completely engrossed in this film, alternating between tears and laughter. I found it was a movie made with such loving care that it encouraged, and enabled me, to share their experience and make my own life journey with them. My own emotions and life history became intermingled with theirs. I feel it was Emilio's intention for us all to take "Our Own Way".
My main sadness is that so many people will be unable to see it at cinemas, as it has only been given a single weeks run to facilitate the usual glut of "So called Blockbusters". Movies like The Way need time to breathe, as "Word of Mouth" is the key to expanding Audience figures and the wider appreciation such a work deserves..
Matin Sheen and his son, Emilio Estevez, make a winning team here - the direction, though straightforward is, like Ron Howard, filled with memorable scenes and images that linger. Sheen himself is always good at taking us with him - his half-amused, half-bemused style suits this perfectly. As he travels on the old pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela to deal with tragic loss he meets and forms a group with three other pilgrims.
All in all, the overall experience of watching this is simply pleasure - and like Danny Boyle's films, it seems simple but it is a complete experience. The Way is human, emotive, emotional, and sincere, and for this viewer a good journey.
It makes me want to do el camino. Very touching. I cried twice and laughed, and towards the end was sitting with a huge grin on my face. The warmth between the characters was good, honest, authentic.
It's also like having plans to do one thing, but you end up doing something quite different, that just grows. I could feel a loosening at the end of it, where feelings had shifted for people, there was a release for the characters that had happened in a very real way. Nothing grated, it was very gentle, but built up to a wave that carried me with it.
Scenery is beautiful of course. An interesting bit with the gypsies in Spain that I found challenging. It brought me up as I believed the same stuff they assumed - I'd heard it so much: and it is interesting when I realised that what I've accepted as truth may just be prejudice. We all like a scapegoat to absolve ourselves, and to feel superior to other folks.
Well done everyone involved with this. I think I will be buying a few copies of this to hand out.
It makes me want to go, but it kind of makes me want to go alone to see who I meet on the way.
In fact, four such folk are the main characters in The Way. Tom (Martin Sheen) is a native Californian eye doctor who spends as much time on the links as he does at the office. He receives an unexpected phone call from a French policeman informing him his son Daniel (Emilio Estevez) died in southern France in a major storm. Tom flies out to France to collect his body and learns about the pilgrimage Daniel was just starting out on.
Tom and Daniel did not have the best parting one would like to have the last time you are going to see your son. Tom thought Daniel was wasting his life on these silly adventures while Daniel responded with the platitude, "You don't choose your life, you experience it." In a moment of remorse and homage, Tom decides to walk the 500 miles for Daniel with his cremated remains spreading his ashes along the way.
Quickly, he is joined by fellow pilgrims each with their own reasons for taking a few months out of their lives to backpack across Spain. There is the Dutchman Joost (Yorick van Wageningen) who is walking the trail to lose weight for his brother's wedding. Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger) is a chain smoking Canadian who vows to drop the habit once she reaches the cathedral and Jack (James Nesbitt) is an Irishman convinced the trail will finally crack his writer's block. Initially, Tom does not particularly want their company because he is suffering from some severe guilt and remorse about Daniel. This leads to the film's low point of a drunken rage against pilgrims and his walking mates. Fortunately, once this ridiculous and needless scene is over, the rest of The Way is a very enjoyable movie to watch.
The Way was shot with only available light, sunlight during the day and candles and fire at night which lends it a great deal of authenticity. Other than the main characters, everyone else on screen are actual pilgrims walking the trail to the cathedral. There is a scene later on with real Roma (Gypsies). Since the Camino de Santiago means a great deal to many people, especially those in northern Spain, you can really see how writer/director Emilio Estevez took his time to do this right.
It is refreshing to see Emilio pop his head up once again for some work. I last saw him when he directed 2006's Bobby and since then it appears he has only directed a couple episodes of Numb3rs. Perhaps he is always waiting for some real inspiration to use as his next project. He mentioned The Way came about from his father and his son's experience on the trail. I wonder if the character Jack is a model for Emilio since the first draft of this screenplay took six months to write. Furthermore, it is about time Martin Sheen showed up in a good movie again. Recently, he has had some bit parts in throw away movies such as Love Happens and Imagine That and hasn't truly had quality work since The Departed.
The Way won't win any awards; however, it is so positive and perhaps intentionally persuasive that I bet every person in the audience thought about how they could find a few months to take off and hike that distance. I had no idea that such a place as the Camino de Santiago existed before watching The Way which I suspect is a big reason why Emilio Estevez took the time to write and direct this film. He wants the rest of us to know about it as well.
I saw this at the BFI in London at a screening attended by Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen. They are very proud of their film and it obviously means a lot to them, as father and son. They came across as intelligent and socially aware people, which was great to see.
During the discussion, a member of the audience pointed out the parallels with "The Wizard of Oz", something which I confess escaped me while the film was on but seemed perfectly obvious when I heard it. So watch out for that if you see the movie, and also look out for a cameo by Matt Clark, veteran character actor and, apparently, good friend of MArtin Sheen.
You can tell just from the close-to-home feel of the character The Way is something sentimental and meaningful to both Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. Both real life father and son actors have been taking most of their time in 2011 and using it to promote a film with heart and soul, but will likely be ignored when in theaters because of its very limited release and its minimal marketing.
The story focuses on Tom (Sheen), an American doctor, who goes to France after hearing his adventure-seeking son Daniel (Estevez) has died in a storm while hiking the Camino de Santiago - a famed Christian route many walk on to find faith or go to Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela at the end of the five-hundred mile route.
After arriving in France to pick up Daniel's ashes, Tom makes a split-second decision that he will follow hike the path of his son, while spreading his ashes throughout the trail. He meets up with many different people with many different stories. They are Joost (Wageningen), a Dutchman who is hiking the trail for exercise purposes, Sarah (Unger) who is trying to quit smoking, and "Jack from Ireland" (Nesbitt) who is suffering from writer's block and is trying to collect information about fellow hikers and their separate journeys.
The Way has a number of strange qualities - for one it has noticeable parallels to the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. And two, it is odd for Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, two actors that practice in strict Catholicism, to focus on a film that leads to a Christian Cathedral. Whatever the reason behind it, the story is pitch-perfect and Martin Sheen may have just given one of the best performances of his career.
The tears come and go in The Way, but so do the shocker scenes like when the topic of abortion is briefly mentioned. It is rare for such a film to bring up a controversial topic, which is why The Way deserves a load of credit.
The plot isn't too deep, but the story is truly moving. The acting by the four characters is fantastic, and like any road movie, it is more about the characters getting to find their inner-selves rather than walking from point a to point b. Only here - it is more welcomed because of the fact that is what the Camino de Santiago is all about.
Starring: Martin Sheen, Deborah Kara Unger, James Nesbitt, Yorick van Wageningen, and Emilio Estevez. Directed by: Emilio Estevez.