The Way Reviews
Estevez directs his father Martin Sheen as a grumpy and irascible opthamologist named Tom who has hit a crossraods in his life. He's a widower, and somewhat estranged from his free spirited adult son Daniel. After Daniel is killed in the Pyrenees Mountains, Tom travels to France to bring his son's body home. Daniel had been in the proocess of walking the Camino de Santiago, aka The Way of Saint James, a historic religious pilgrimage route spanning from France along the coast of Spain to the Atlantic Ocean.
Feeling a strange compulsion, rather than return home, Tom has Daniel's remains cremated and sets out, despite his inexperience, on a quest to finish the trek his son started as a way of honoring his memory and trying to shake his own life out of a rut.
Along the way, Tom unwittingly finds himself making the 800 KM (or so) trek with a motley band of colorful characters from all over the globe, each one, like Tom, with their own personal issues and diverse reasons for hiking "The Way".
This movie is so sincere, well meaning, and earnest that you really feel bad saying anything negative about it. Yes, there's lots of cliches, and many of the characters are just moderately fleshed out archetypes, but it's the performances, especially that of Sheen, that really hold this film together and make it worthwhile. Well that, and it helps that the film was shot entirely on location along the actual Camino de Santiago, with all of the non speaking trekkers and extras being actual pilgrims making the trip.
I really loved that aspect of the production, because the locations and cinematography are absolutely gorgeous, the level of authenticity is really high, and you get a real sense of the sincerity and genuine labor of love that the project is. That's also probably to the credit that it's an indie affair, instead of a mega budget mess. The low-key aspects to everything make it more appealing special.
The film does meander at times, and the pacing is pretty leisurely, almost as if they are trying to force the viewer into making the trip themselves, and some of the music cues are rather trite and on the nose. However, the actual score is really nice, and it surprised me since it was done by Tyler Bates, most known for doing the music for many of the films by Zack Snyder and Rob Zombie. It actually works really nicely though, and it was an enjoyable surprise.
Another thing about this movie that really scores points with me is that, not only is it a road movie/travelogue sort of thing (which I absolutely love), but it's also the type of road movie where the journey is more important than the destination, something I also love and a sentiment I believe in personally.
All in all, the film is somewhat typical of road movies and moving, heartwarming indie character dramas, but it is pretty well made, strongly acted, and a fair way to spend a couple of hours. Who knows, maybe this will inspire people to actually embark on "The Way" for themselves.
Excellent Film! The Way is human, emotive, emotional, and sincere, and for this viewer a good journey. Martin Sheen is a Hollywood icon and a terrific actor but this is probably his best role in years. Sheen gives a powerhouse performance that just makes you love and feel for this father looking desperately to find a son he's lost, but also a piece of himself. Sheen is riveting and this was an award worthy performance. I've come to the conclusion that when Estevez cares about a project he puts every ounce of his soul into the film. The Way demonstrates what kind of passion he puts into his film. It is just beautiful in every sense of the word. The Spanish countryside is stunning, the shots he uses of all of them together walking the trail, and the relationship he creates between these four strangers who are completely different. I felt on the verge of tears through the whole film but not just because it is sad because there are scenes of sadness but just how heart felt and honest and passionate this movie is. Please see this beautiful and simple drama because it is magnificent.
"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, an American doctor who comes to St. Jean Pied de Port, France to collect the remains of his adult son (played by Emilio Estevez), killed in the Pyrenees in a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of Saint James. 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 and his "California Bubble Life". Inexperienced as a trekker, Tom soon discovers that he will not be alone on this journey. On his journey, Tom meets other pilgrims from around the world, each with their own issues and looking for greater meaning in their lives: a Dutchman (Yorick van Wageningen), a Canadian (Deborah Kara Unger) and an Irish writer ('James Nesbitt' ), who is suffering from a bout of writer's block. From the unexpected and, oftentimes, amusing experiences along the way, this unlikely quartet of misfits creates an everlasting bond and Tom begins to learn what it means to be a citizen of the world again. Through Tom's unresolved relationship with his son, he discovers the difference between "the life we live and the life we choose".
Summary: When his son dies while hiking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in the Pyrenees, a grieving father flies to France to claim the remains. Looking for insights into his estranged child's life, he decides to complete the 500-mile trek to Spain.
My Thoughts: "Emilio Estevez has written and directed a beautiful story about self discovery, redemption, and spiritual healing. Martin Sheen does a fantastic job in the film. Emilio does a great job at directing and making you kinda feel like fifth wheel on this journey with these four characters. I enjoyed each one of their stories and loved the relationship that grew between the four as the film goes on. The scenery was beautiful and the movie makes you want to experience the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in the Pyrenees. Emilio did a fantastic job with this film. Great watch if you don't mind the concept and films that don't have to do with the norm of films like action, murder, blood and guts. It was a nice simple film."
A father heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while traveling the "El camino de Santiago," and decides to take the pilgrimage himself.
2011 has given us its share of small films that deal with intimate human experiences. Some go and explore social issues, universal themes of oppression and racism. "The Way" brings together a group of people on their own personal quests, looking for a miracle, a possibility of change for the better, hoping for the best, sharing "El Camino to Compostela". After a father loses his only son in France, he heads back to claim his body, only to realize there are important spiritual matters he needs to settle. His relationship with his son had not been his best until this moment; completing his son's journey might give him an opportunity to find redemption and peace of mind. On his way to Compostela, he is joined by a Dutch man, an American woman, and an Irish writer. Each of them has a story to tell, seeks a connection to Avery, who reluctantly lets them into his life. The journey takes them through interesting stops. One will probably end up saying "miracles actually happen" with the way the plot turns.
In reality, the film works well because the main actors give heartfelt performance. The entire cast is in fact amazing, giving depth to characters that could have been clichés. The most touching is a surprise, as the shallow Dutch man grows more and more interesting as he becomes our eyes, and we are witnesses to a man who is processing the emotions his fellow companions are feeling. It's hard not to be moved by the display of faith in a film that could have gone overboard and become preachy. Instead, he lets us participate in some personal experiences, taking us through "the way", letting us see the surroundings, the people at the different stops, letting us become involved. It is a very moving experience.
"The Way" has certain things going for it like excellent cinematography which takes full advantage of the scenic locations and more than its fair share of history. But this sentimental movie can never quite transcend being a travelogue to become either a compelling story or character study, for if no other reason than you are never in good company. Maybe if we had seen more of somebody with devout beliefs, considering this is supposed to be a pilgrimage, after all. As far as Tom goes, it might help the movie dramatically for him to start out right away but it would have made more sense if he returned home to think things out while on his daily ten mile walk.
It's a humble, quiet tale or, in other words, a snoozefest. No, I was surprised to find how rarely dull this film is, but it is still an indie drama at the end of the day, so it at least has to have some slow spots here and there, but speaking of indie drama conventions, slowness is the least of this film's problems. I once heard someone say that Emilio Estevez should be doing some more directing, not because he's great, but because he's clearly inexperienced, as we can tell by some amateur spots where this film hits some heavy conventions, yet, just because some conventions are more intense then others, that doesn't mean that this film doesn't have some kind of cliche on its back, weighing it down. The characters, story, dialogue, themes and - oh lord, especially - soundtrack, in the immortals words of Steven Page of the Barenaked Ladies, "It's all been done". Hey, I said "almost" every song after the 80s is terrible; but anyways, this film is an all too conventional one, falling into most every familiar trope that you would expect to see in a film like this, and although that doesn't really damage the film extensively to where it's hard to bear, don't go in expecting something you haven't seen before. Still, it's not like this film makes little effort to play up those conventions, for although this is a film that finds itself lost in a massive pile of films like it, it's still one to standout. There's little that's terribly memorable about this film, but it's by no means forgettable, unless of course you're that one sourpuss that likes to forget about fun, which is something to be found here.
If nothing else, the film is thoroughly charming, and if nothing else makes it that, then the locations do. Now, this isn't the Bahamas or anything, this is just some dirt path, but boy do the French know how to decorate it, leaving every structure or path our characters find themselves stumbling upon to feel dynamic and lush, really making the film feel pretty fun, the aforementioned occasional slow spot notwithstanding. Of course, it shouldn't be too hard to tell what aspect is really keeping this film from crossing over into the dreaded boring zone, and that is, of course, the soundtrack, which is pretty familiar and kind of repetative, but boy is it charming. No, it's the characters that really bring this path to life, for although you know exactly who's who, it's still a surprise when they show up and add versatility to the grand cast, as well as their own unique brand of charisma that gives you that sense of humanity and connection, which is supplemented by some electric chemistry and sense of building comradery. There's not a really upstanding performance, not even from Mr. "All But Broke Acting Ground in 'Apocalypse Now'" himself, but most everyone has their time to shine and they carry those brief but relieving moments well. Still, on the whole, the performers don't do much, but they're not supposed to and are only intended to serve their parts in workmanlike, very human fashions, and in that regard, the performers go above the call of duty. Don't get me wrong, they're not charismatic to the point of feeling as though they're fighting to see who's the most charming, but everyone is spirited and lively, adding his or her own piece to the puzzle to make it tight, charming and ultimately quite rewarding emotionally, and although you may have seen this story told a million times, there aren't a whole lot of retellings that are this effective and memorable.
At the end of the journey, forgettability begins to set in, due to the countless collapses into conventions, or at least that's what would happen to any lesser film of this type, for although this film is a conventional one, it's still very lively, dynamic, emotional and generally quite fun, made so by the nifty locations and across-the-board thoroughly charismatic performances - tied together by equally electric chemistry and comradery that also comes into great play when individual performers actually have a chance to shine on his or her own - that make Estevez's and Son's "The Way" an ultimately deeply rewarding venture.
3/5 - Good
It's a movie for people with spirit! The story of Thomas Avery, an American doctor who goes to France following the death of his adult son who was killed in the Pyrenees during a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago - is something very similar to one of the books of Paulo Coelho I read - but it had much more personal feeling. Tom's purpose is initially to retrieve his son's body - however, in a combination of grief and homage to his son, Tom decides to walk the same ancient spiritual trail where his son died in order to understand his son better. On that road he understands himself and the world as well as the purpose of living much better and spiritually gets closer to his son!
The personal feeling probably comes from the film's inspiration: Emilio Estevez's own son, Taylor - who in 2003 was only 19 years old - and Martin Sheen, took part in this pilgrimage route. On that pilgrimage Taylor drove the length of the Camino with his grandfather when on the way he fell in love and met the woman who would become his wife, thus, the Camino holding special meaning to them. Since that trip a series of discussions started between Sheen and his son for a movie about the Camino de Santiago. Sheen originally suggested it be a low-budget documentary, but Estevez was not interested in such a small project, wanting instead a bigger experience - and I am glad that he made such an inspirational movie for all of us! If you like a good, old-fashioned and well done film which explores the universal themes of loss, community and faith - this is my choice!
Along the way he forms a bond with three other people, Joost (Yorick van Wageningen), Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger) and Jack (James Nesbit), all of whom are following the pilgrimage for their own reasons on a journey which threads through Northern Spain taking in it's varied scenery and various characters along the way.
I caught this on home viewing as it had a very limited release in the UK and, to be honest, whilst I understand why it had a limited release, it's a shame that it didn't get more publicity as it's a nice film to watch... if unfashionable in comparison to the multiplex blockbusters that are the staple of the modern film industry.
Emilio Estevez's direction is beautiful and supports the story well showing off the route of the Camino to full effect. In front of the camera, he portrays Tom's son, both in flashback and as a "spirit guide" for Tom's journey - geographically, emotionally and spiritually.
Martin Sheen shines in the role of Tom. His portrayal of a grieving father who parted on difficult terms with his son was believable and not misery-inducing and his spiky characterisation provides some gentle humour.
He is ably supported by his three co-stars, the humorous van Wageningen and Nesbit and the equally spiky Unger provides the film with a warmth which elevates it from just being a travelog.
The Way is a well produced and thoughtful film. Gentle enough to round off the weekend.
Estevez enlists his real-life father Martin Sheen in the lead role of Tom Avery, a California optometrist who upon learning about the death of his son Daniel (played by Estevez in flashbacks) travels to France to collect his sons remains. Daniel was a free spirit type who dropped out of Berkley to see the world and in doing so he began the journey of the "El camino de Santiago" himself but was killed in an accident on his first day out. When Tom reaches France and in a all-around great performance by Sheen we see the reality of his sons death begin to sink in, Tom realizes he has to finish the journey for his son. It feels the only proper thing to do and the most respectable form of honoring his son. What ensues on his journey is not something just for his son who he never seemed to fully understand, but of course a kind of self-discovery that allows Tom to see and appreciate the time he's spent on earth in a different light. This is like I said, a story so ingrained in our cultural DNA but is fortunately not the most important thing about the film. No, despite "The Way" being standard fare, it is elevated by the performances and the bonds that Avery makes during his journey that allow him to come to terms with who he has become.
This may all sound a tad melodramatic and "Eat Pray Love"-ish but unlike that film our protagonists quest for something more is not rooted in their own selfishness. In fact, Tom has no desire to leave his safe and secure world of being a doctor with golf games in the afternoon. He enjoys his life, he is content, but his son has always been a kind of challenge in his life, the unconventional part of it, yearning to break out of the California bubble. Tom at first doesn't even intend to finish the walk for Daniel. This pilgrimage is the first thing in a long while to give Tom something to achieve, but the problem this enlists for the film is it lets the audience know where the film will end. So the meat of what is interesting will happen en route and while Tom collects a diverse group of traveling buddies that while having their own personal crisis on their hands, they pale in comparison to the reason Tom has chosen to take this trip. The two main problems I had with the film were the too often occurring montages set to what felt like out of place popular songs and the slight episodic feel the film began to pick up.
Tom's new found friends and their personal stories as well as their loyalty and determination to make Tom feel a part of something rather than a loner is the saving grace of the long pilgrimage and the level of acting elevates these characters to people we want to see resolve their issues. As the lone woman on the trek, Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger) says she is trying to give up smoking by the end of the trip while seeming eternally pessimistic. It is clear there is more under the hood here than smoking though and her quest for a kind of self assurance compliments Tom's the best. There is the instinctively kind Joost (Yorick van Wageningen) who is walking the path to try and lose weight in order to once again feel attractive to his wife. Finally, we have the wonderful James Nesbitt who shows up about halfway through the film as Jack, an author with writer's block who finds in Tom a story worthy of his novel. The interaction between each of them and the bonds they form is clearly the strongest aspect of the film. And while at times the movie could do with better pacing and even shave a few minutes here and there; ultimately Estevez documents the natural progression of these relationships well and produces a heartfelt if not slightly modest effort.