Movie Review: " The Way" Movie Review:  "The Way"
Movie Review:  "The Way"

Movie Review: "The Way"

Movie Review:  The Way

by Steve Eastman

Tom Avery lost his wife.  And somehow her passing left him emotionally distant from his son.   Martin Sheen describes his character as self-interested.   Avery, busy with his ophthalmology practice, was unable to understand why Daniel, played by Sheen’s real life son Emilio Estevez, would drop out of medical school to make a pilgrimage to the purported burial place of St. James in Spain.  The younger Avery tells his dad there’s a difference between the life we live and the life we choose
Ironically, Daniel dies just a day into the 500-mile journey known as “El Camino de Santiago,” the victim of a storm in the Pyrenees.  A shaken Tom Avery arrives in France, intending to bring his son’s body home.  But then, an idea forms in his mind that’s not typical of him.  Tom cremates Daniel’s remains, deciding to complete the pilgrimage his son began.  It now becomes a father and son journey, a trip they never had while Daniel was alive.  Tom carries his son’s ashes in a box, leaving a handful at significant points along the way.

The Way is an independent film, the only kind that can do justice to the story of a physical pilgrimage that is also a spiritual pilgrimage.  The scenery is breath-taking.  Anyone who enjoys hiking can appreciate the peaceful effect it has on Tom’s slow healing process.  Emilio Estevez directed the film.  He and his dad take special pride in shooting a movie in the land of their ancestors’ birth.

To portray the disconnection of his character, Sheen must remain stoic throughout most of the movie, but he is able to communicate more with that nearly constant expression than most actors do who are permitted a wider emotional range.  After the movie, it’s a relief to watch him smiling and laughing on the DVD’s special features.

Tom ends up sharing the journey with three other travelers — a friendly Dutchman who wants to lose weight, a hurting Canadian woman who talks about giving up cigarettes, and an overly dramatic Irishman who’s there to write a book.  Sheen’s character reluctantly puts up with them most of the time but still finds opportunities to walk alone.  Religious pilgrims have been walking the El Camino de Santiago for a thousand years, but these modern pilgrims show little sign of being religious in the traditional sense.

Tom is a very private person and is outraged when the Dutchman tells one of the others about Daniel’s death.  And he especially resents the Irishman’s intention to share his personal story with the world … that is, until he has an epiphany. 

At journey’s end, only two of the characters get what they were originally seeking, but the movie is still satisfying as we watch them grow as people, especially Tom Avery.  Daniel would be proud.  His dad has learned the difference between the life we live and the life we choose.  And Tom is no longer the self-interested character we met at the beginning of the movie.  He now appreciates the value of community.

Listen to Steve Eastman's review with sound clips from the movie.
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