'The Way' with Martin Sheen & Emilio Estevez — a movie review

Watching ‘The Way’ with father-son team Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez was a wonderful way to celebrate the closing of one year and the beginning of another, because ‘The Way’ is a moving and inspirational story of endings and new beginnings.

Although Catholic in much of its story line, ‘The Way’ transcends Catholicism in its depiction of a spiritual journey of healing and discovery along the Camino de Santiago that should appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike.

I’ll admit the plot is not that exciting: Tom (Martin Sheen), a father, loses his only son Daniel (Emilio Estevez), a son who turned away from his doctorate to experience life first-hand. Going to collect his son’s remains in the French Pyrenees, Tom discovers Daniel was on a spiritual pilgrimage to the church of Santiago de Compostela, where many think the relics of St. James the Apostle are buried. Tom makes the impulsive decision to have Daniel cremated so he can continue Daniel’s journey with Daniel’s ashes.

The movie is about the people Tom encounters along the way, the tenuous relationships he forms against his will, and the discoveries he makes along the way about himself and Daniel.

However, the beauty with which Edirector/writer Emilio Estevez weaves his tale, set against the splendid background of the Camino de Santiago makes ‘The Way’ one of those movies that sticks with you long after the movie is over.

The characters are all broken and not easy to like. Tom, of course, is broken by his son’s death, and by their alienation. He is angry and bitter and avoids his fellow Camino walkers.

Joost (Yorick van Wageningen), is a congenial, sometimes annoying Dutchman who carries recreational drugs and who wants to lose weight so his wife will desire him again. Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), is a sharp-tongued Canadian who says she is on the camino to stop smoking but who is really ravaged with guilt over her aborted daughter and defensive from an abusive marriage. Jack (James Nesbitt), is a talkative, somewhat braggadocious Irish novelist who has writer’s block.

As little by little as these characters overcome obstacles together and reveal more of themselves through the trials of their journey, the viewer gains the same feelings of empathy and community that Tom comes to feel on the camino.

No matter what baggage you carry with you on life’s journey, ‘The Way’ is a powerful story about the choices we make in life, the way these choices effect us, and the opportunities we have to find healing and forgiveness along the way.

‘The Way’ comes out on DVD on February 21, 2012. The movie is 121 minutes long and well worth the two-hour investment.

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