The Way

| October 6, 2011

The Way is a film directed/written by Emilio Estevez about a father who decides to walk a lengthy pilgrimage route in Spain after learning of his son’s accidental death while attempting to walk the very same route.
Tom Avery (Martin Sheen) is an American optometrist having a typical day when he receives a cell phone call during a round of golf from a Captain Henri (Tcheky Karyo) who tells him that his son Daniel (Emilio Estevez) has been killed in the Pyrenees during a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago (a.k.a., The Way of St. James). Tom goes to retrieve his son’s body, but ends up deciding to have Daniel’s remains cremated and walk the Camino with his son’s ashes. “I’m gonna walk the Camino de Santiago…both of us,” Tom tells Captain Henri, while holding up the metal box containing his son’s ashes.
Along the way, Tom makes travel companions that include a personable and portly Dutchman named Joost (Yorick van Wageningen), who is walking to lose some weight; a sarcastic and defensive Canadian named Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), who is walking to quit smoking; and a passionate and chatty Irishman named Jack (James Nesbitt), who is travel writer trying to pen a story about the Camino, but has writer’s block. Tom’s son Daniel also makes appearances via flashbacks as Tom sprinkles his son’s ashes at certain locations on the Camino.
The Way is a journey film that tells about dealing with the loss of a loved one, but also about taking chances. “You don’t choose a life. You live one,” are the words Tom recalls his son Daniel speaking to him while he is driving his son to the airport for his trip to walk the Camino.
The film also shows how important it is to let people into your life (i.e., Joost, Sarah, and Jack) and how that can ultimately change how you live your life, as is noted in the film’s tag line: “Life is too big to walk it alone.”
Initially, Tom is devastated and shocked at the news of his son’s death. A moviegoer can feel his sadness, remorse and anger, which transforms to determination once he decides to make the Camino trek. He sees visions of his son on the way, but tends to be withdrawn and a bit cynical to his on-again, off-again travel companions, not seeing how they tend to cling to him as a kind of fatherly-figure, or sage whom they look to for conversation and advice – as if they can see the positive in Tom, despite his generally surly attitude.
Estevez tells a fantastic story with believable dialogue. All of the characters are comical and witty, but also complex and hidden. For example, we learn that the naturally friendly and positive Joost is fighting an eating addiction and how it is affecting his married life. And one is just waiting for Tom to burst open with emotion about his loss. A moviegoer will care for these characters and therefore will begin to root for them as their story arc progresses. The plot develops patiently, but it does not drag or bore. The story has certain parallels to the classic film, The Wizard of Oz.
Another character is the film is the Camino itself. Estevez chooses picturesque views along the Camino that make a moviegoer feel as if he/she are making the trek along with Tom and his three travel companions. The film was filmed entirely on location along the Camino.
Estevez’s son, Taylor, is actually the inspiration for the film. Taylor and his grandfather (Martin Sheen) spent time on the Camino in 2003. Taylor ended up meeting his wife during that time. Sheen’s grandfather was raised a short while from Santiago. Walking the Camino, “always lived in my imagination romantically,” Sheen said in one of the interviews posted on The Way’s official movie website.

About the Author:

Josef Steiff Joe Steiff would gladly spend his days and nights watching movies and TV with a little writing on the side. Oh, and teach at Columbia College in Chicago. And maybe play Mass Effect. But sleep gets in the way. He's made a few films. edited Popular Culture and Philosophy volumes on Battlestar Galactica, Anime, Manga and Sherlock Holmes for Open Court Books, wrote The Complete Idiot's Guide to Independent Filmmaking and is a co-author of Storytelling Across Worlds: Transmedia for Creatives and Producers.
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