Set along the Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago) from France to Spain, the film is directed by Sheen’s son Estevez, who appears as a ghostly muse.
The most powerful movie is sometimes the simplest. Sheen’s deep, rousing performance and Estevez’s minimalist, mood-centered direction fill The Way with meaning.
Cinematographer Juanmi Azpiroz captures action along the breathtaking pilgrimage route.
Losing a son
Daniel (Estevez) has died in a freak accident in the Pyrenees, known for unpredictable weather. He was nearly 40 when he decided to postpone doctoral studies and walk the 500-mile-long trek.
Tom Avery (Sheen) just lost his wife a year ago, so losing his son is devastating. The conservative ophthalmologist travels from Ventura, California to identify Daniel and have him cremated.
A new pilgrim
With Daniel’s backpack and provisions, Tom decides to complete his son’s journey. He will walk to the cathedral where the Apostle James is said to be buried. Local police warn him about the dangers. Tom is stoic. He has nothing to lose.
Sheen’s intensity and talent are mesmerizing. A winner of Emmy and Golden Globe awards, he’s played presidents and generals, fathers and coaches. Sheen evokes manhood with strength and sensitivity.
Tom scatters Daniel’s ashes at especially beautiful vistas. He remembers how his son pissed him off. “You don’t choose a life, Dad. You live one,” Daniel once told him. Tom speaks little, but you can feel his brokenness.
Tom sees Daniel wherever he goes. The son becomes father to the man. Tom appreciates the wordless visits. Still peace eludes him.
Empty but determined, Tom surrenders. Three travelers gravitate around the angry American. Numbness gives way to fury for the grieving dad.
Seekers become friends
Deborah Kara Unger plays Sarah, a sharp-tongued Canadian who wants to quit smoking. Yorick von Wageningen plays Joost, a friendly Dutchman who’s desperate to lose weight but loves regional cuisine. James Nesbitt is engaging as Jack, a bombastic Irishman with writer’s block who begins to chronicle Tom’s story.
His companions irk him, but Tom discovers himself by being around the others. Each traveler has wounds to heal. Finally Tom empathizes. He begins to understand why the journey was so important to Daniel.
Meeting a young thief
Each must resolve personal issues and find truth. Gently insistent spiritual undertones never become overbearing. An encounter with a young gypsy thief (Omar Munoz) and his father (Antonio Gil) is especially moving.
A sense of community grows among the four and extends to others who walk. With references to cell phones, The Way also meditates on how disconnected we have become in the information age.
Real life parallels
The Way allowed Sheen and Estevez to explore their Spanish culture and Catholic religion together. Charlie Sheen, the star’s other son, battled publicly with drug addiction as this film was made.
The mystical bond between fathers and sons is tempered by real life frustration in this vision quest.
Estevez has directed a dozen television shows and films. He starred in The Breakfast Club andYoung Guns. Estevez and Sheen have made other movies together, including The War at Home and Bobby.
Manhood, heart and healing
The Way is the best father-son drama I’ve seen in years. It’s nothing less than a healing for the male heart. (5 out of 5 stars)
The Way 2010 / NR / 1 hour, 55 min
Cast Overview: Emilio Estevez, Martin Sheen, Deborah Kara Unger, Yorick van Wageningen, James Nesbitt
Director: Emilio Estevez
Genre: Drama, Independent