Movie review by Neil Sadler
Starring: Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez, James Nesbitt, Deborah Kara Unger
Director: Emilio Estevez
THE WAY tells the story of Tom played by director and writer Emilio Estevez’s father Martin Sheen. When his estranged son dies while walking the Camino de Santiago, a Christian pilgrimage route in Spain, Tom goes to collect the ashes but ends up walking the route himself and scattering the ashes as he walks.
Collecting a small band of people that follow him on the route, Tom uses the journey to reflect on his own life and his relationship with his son and the world.
THE WAY is the story of a pilgrimage, something which is quite alien to many Christian’s nowadays but was quite a common experience for Christians in previous centuries and is still very common in other faiths, notably Islam where the Haj or pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the 7 pillars of wisdom. How you react to THE WAY will very much be coloured by how you feel about pilgrimages, because the journey that Tom takes, is traditionally that of the pilgrim. By physically moving along the way, he challenges not only his body but his beliefs and how that he interacts with the world around him.
As he moves through the journey, he is scattering his sons ashes but also learning more about him and his attitude to life. The relationships he makes as he walks are initially quite frosty. Joost is never really invited to walk with Tom but follows him almost like a puppy. Yorick den Wageningen is extremely likeable as Joost, even if he does come across as a bit of a stereo typical Dutchman.
Jack and Sarah, the other pilgrims that join Tom are less likeable initially but as the journey mellows them all and we learn snippets about their life, we warm to them in the same way the group learn to warm to each other. The best example of this is when the group get to spend a night in a smart hotel after weeks of sleeping in cheap hostels and on roadsides. Initially revelling in the luxury, they soon miss the company of one another and gradually all drift from their separate rooms into Tom’s room.
This is a slow and gentle tale that goes quite rightly at a walking pace. Obviously deeply felt, it is a very Christian tale. No surprise then that this is from Mel Gibson’s production company, Icon. Some people may struggle with the whole concept of the pilgrimage and what it can teach a modern audience but the simple performances, stark but often beautiful landscapes and surprisingly moving but unsentimental final scenes make this a mellow but rewarding antidote to blockbuster and rom-com overload.