The Way is the story of a father (Martin Sheen) who is estranged from his only son (Emilo Estevez). When his son dies right after beginning “The Way of St. James” (El Camino de Santiago), Sheen’s character, a doctor from California, goes to France to bring back his son’s body. While there he decides to finish what his son had only just started when he died… to honor him and to reconnect with him.
The pilgrimage journey as literary device is, of course, as old as Chaucer. Estevez who wrote and directed the The Way understands well the concept of pilgrimage as external and internal at the same time. Character is revealed, examined, and changed… the physical journey and the spiritual journey become one. The characters are changed by the pilgrimage but so are we who watch their journey.
Along El Camino de Santiago, Sheen meets other pilgrims as broken and lost as he is. Each one trying to find something… to recover the best parts of themselves. Sheen’s character begins the pilgrimage alone but soon finds himself a part of a small community: an edgy woman from Canada recovering from an abusive relationship and living with the guilt of having terminated a pregnancy; a travel writer from Ireland struggling with writer’s block; and an overweight Dutchman trying to save his marriage. Along the way they all learn the difference between “the life we live and the life we choose.”
According to Wikipedia, El Camino de Santiago has existed for over a thousand years. It was once, with Rome and Jerusalem, one of the most important Christian pilgrimages. It has in recent decades seen a significant resurgance. Christians and non-Christians by the thousands now walk or bike the pilgrimage each year, which can take 2 to 4 weeks to complete. The route from France through the Pyrenees is a World Heritage Site.
The DVD of The Way came out on February 21st. For a trailer, or more information, click here.
A Few Memorable Quotes
Daniel (Emilio Estevez): You don’t choose a life Dad. You live one.
Tom (Martin Sheen): Daniel was a lot like you. Smart, confident, stubborn… pissed me off a lot.