¨You don't choose a life, dad. You live one.¨
The Way is Emilio Estevez´s directorial follow up to Bobby, and he delivers once again with an honest and authentic film about a father`s journey to try to reconnect with his dead son in a pilgrimage through Spain. The film is beautiful and never tries to be over sentimental like most Hollywood dramas do. One may think of it as a religious film, but I found it to be more of a spiritual one. Life is kind of like a journey where we are continually making new relationships, some which may last for a lifetime and others that won´t, but despite that they do mark and define each one of us. Emilio Estevez uses the real life pilgrimage through ¨El Camino de Santiago¨ as a metaphor of life itself, where we see how several different characters interact with each other despite their differing views. The film touches universal themes that people of all ages can identify with. It´s hard not to feel nostalgic towards this film because we might be reminded along the way that we too have come across some of these characters in our journey through life. We all have different reasons for making the journey, but that doesn’t mean we cannot all get along and help each other discover what we are looking for. In that sense the film succeeds in its spirituality, but it also works thanks to the beautiful scenery and a great script adapted by Estevez himself from Jack Hitt´s book. The dialogues in this film are great and despite not having much action we are entertained by the interaction between the characters. Estevez decided to make a film about El Camino after his son and father (Martin Sheen) actually made the journey together in real life. The film does succeed in wanting the viewer to experience this journey in real life as well.
When Tom (Martin Sheen) receives a phone call from a police officer in France informing him that his son Daniel (Emilio Estevez) died in a storm while deciding to make a pilgrimage across Spain known as ¨El Camino de Santiago, ¨ he immediately gets on a plane to bring back his dead son´s body. Once he arrives at St. Jean Pied de Port, France and identifies the body he decides to cremate it and then begins the pilgrimage while spreading the ashes across various points of the journey. El Camino is an 800 km pilgrimage across Spain that people have been making for centuries ending at the Cathedral of St. James where the apostle´s body is said to be buried. Tom realizes there is much more to life than the life he had in California working as a doctor and spending his free time playing golf. As he begins the journey he runs into several different pilgrims who are making the journey for several different reasons. Some of the friends he makes along the way are Joost from Amsterdam (Yorick van Wageningen), a friendly and talkative man who is making the pilgrimage because his wife wants him to lose weight, Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger) a Canadian in her 40`s trying to quit smoking, and an Irish man named Jack (James Nesbitt) suffering from writer´s block. Along the way these misfits find a way to get along and help each other out through their issues.
Martin Sheen is always great, he´s one of the best actor´s of our time, and in this film he really delivers a powerful and authentic performance. This is the second time he plays Emilio Estevez`s father in a film directed by his real life son, the first being the 1996 film The War at Home which I really liked. He brings a lot of authenticity to his character, but the laughs come from Yorick the Dutch. He is almost unrecognizable from his role in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and when the mood begins to get too dark in The Way he always lightens things up. The rest of the cast is also strong, but the main character here actually is El Camino. It´s just beautiful and the film makes you want to take the journey yourself. I really enjoyed this film and would definitely recommend it. It is a simple and slow film, but Estevez manages to take us on a journey and reminds us that it is good to get outside of our bubble at times and live life.