#1 best-selling independent film on iTunes
“The real hero of this film is the landscape itself. The El Camino de Santiago, (or St. James Way), traverses France and northern Spain, where it ends in Galicia, at a cathedral that supposedly holds the body of the Apostle James. The journey takes us through villages, cities, rural trails, and finally, to the Atlantic Ocean itself.”
“Anyone who is tired of watching the typical Hollywood blockbuster movie should see this rare gem about the power of transformation.”
“We’re all searching for something. Faith, answers, guidance, beauty, fresh air, history. We all go on journeys.”
“It’s a simple beautifully done film about a father coming to terms with his son’s untimely death against the backdrop of one of history’s most revered pilgrimages.”
“Estevez delivers an extraordinary film that sadly hasn’t received a whole lot of attention. If you want a great feel good movie, THE WAY is definitely worth the extra effort to seek out.”
“Sheen steals the show. He is a great actor, always takes whatever role he plays and makes it unique, and this one is another worthy notch on his growing belt of accomplishments.”
“one of the best surprises of 2011…daring in its simplicity and inspirational without trying too hard.”
I remember when I found Emilio Estevez’s Twitter page last year. I was a little out of the loop as far as what he’d been up to since he appeared on an episode of Two and a Half Men a few years prior. I was intrigued to see him working on a new movie, titled The Way. I’d been a huge fan of two other films he wrote, directed, and starred in: The War at Home and Bobby. Both were unique and powerful in their own respective rights and quickly found their way to my DVD collection. So naturally, when I found out about the new project, The Way, I dove right in and brushed up on all the available information on the development process and followed the news on the movie all the way to it’s U.S. theatrical release in October 2011.
Admittedly, I wasn’t overly interested in the premise at first. The setting and subject matter didn’t really appeal to me all that much with the type of person I am and the things I’m normally into. I sensed a certain religious tone in the plot, and never being a religious person I thus tend to avoid films that seem to center around it (more on this in a bit). I had never heard of the Camino de Santiago and didn’t have a strong grasp on what exactly it was. But, I’m a huge fan of both Emilio and his father, Martin Sheen, and that loyalty carried me to the only theater that was showing the film here in Louisville, KY.
I’m so glad I went.
This was easily the most touching film I’ve seen in a long, long time. Martin Sheen shines as he gives a stellar performance in the lead role. I agree 100% with every article I read that claimed it would be a cinematic tragedy if he wasn’t nominated for an Oscar. His portrayal of Tom Avery immediately thrust into the shrine of my most beloved characters ever on the big screen. From the opening moments where he finds out his son Daniel (played by Emilio Estevez) has been killed in a tragic accident in the Pyrenees while walking the Camino, to his bold decision to continue the pilgrimage in his honor, to his imminent meltdown, all the way to his epic transformation…….it was like an enthralling book I just couldn’t put down.
One of the most touching elements that makes this movie work so well for me is the father-son interactions we see between Tom and Daniel. At times it truly feels like we are invited into their personal lives and get to see them away from the camera. This accompanied by watching Martin’s performance as Tom sees the body of his late son is something extremely rare and privileging to view, as one can only imagine what is going through Martin’s mind as he pretends his real life son really is dead.
Joost, Sarah, and Jack are excellent in their supporting roles. One of the main aspects I really like about their casting is that all are true to their characters’ origins. Yorick van Wageningen (Joost) really is Dutch, Deborah Kara Unger (Sarah) is Canadian, and James Nesbitt (Jack) is really from Ireland. Each have their own personal reasons for walking the Camino, and it’s very interesting to watch how Tom takes to each one of them. He’s very distant and at times even cold and resentful toward them for much of the film. It’s really something when he finally begins to loosen up and understand the meaning of human connection and value of true friendship.
Out of all the likeable characters in the film, my personal favorite is one we only spend a little bit of time with. Ishmael is the perfect example of what every man should be. Honest, pure, and a complete gentleman. He is detrimental to Tom not only continuing his pilgrimage, but reaching his final destination. Each time I see the film I applaud Ishmael and his modest chivalry. His character is a strong piece of the story that really symbolizes how people should co-exist and treat one another.
Something else I feel deserves mention is the beautiful soundtrack. I truly feel this is an important aspect of the movie that hasn’t gotten proper recognition. Tyler Bates provides the riveting music while the magical Nan Vernon supplies her often times mesmerizing vocal melodies. The two create an ensemble of hypnotizing harmony in several tracks of the score. It definitely enhances the movie’s soul, and then some. Not forgetting additional contributions by Alanis Morissette and James Taylor, The Way Soundtrack is the perfect album to put on while you relax and wind down. I actually bought it on iTunes which marks the first musical purchase for me since Guns N’ Roses finally released Chinese Democracy a few years ago.
The Way is a brilliant work and a testament not only to the inspirational, evolving talent of Emilio Estevez as a writer/director, but also a sound reminder of the superb acting ability of his father Martin Sheen. With a strong supporting cast, beautiful cinematography (stunning on blu-ray), and a wonderful soundtrack — The Way is a warm, feel-good movie the whole family can enjoy. A true labor of love. I applaud Emilio for taking the reigns of his project and keeping it his own. In today’s world of bloated CGI and mainstream hoopla, this film succeeds in being refreshingly different. It succeeds in being religious to an extent without attempting to shove religion down the viewer’s throat. It takes the simplest of life’s traits and emotions and keeps them simple. It doesn’t try too hard to ensure you get the message. It places the viewer in position where the message comes to you. And it gets better with every viewing.
I highly recommend seeing this film.