Directed by and starring the Estevez family, The Way is essentially a travel movie, documenting a father’s pilgrimage to scatter the ashes of his dead son along the Camino del Santiago.
With a strong lead from the timeless Martin Sheen, and a very likeable turn from Yorick van Wageningen – ‘Joost from Amsterdam’ – this highly watchable film encompasses some pleasant and believable characters. Deborah Kara Unger and James Nesbitt complete the group with performances less grounded, though still credible.
As the quartet progress along their spiritual path – beginning in France and ending at the Santiago de Compostella, northwest Spain – we soon learn that they are all Camino misfits. Traditionally a religious journey, Wageningen is walking it as an attempt to lose weight, Unger is trying to kick her nicotine habit (apparently by smoking constantly) and Nesbitt is searching for inspiration to cure his writer’s block. Sheen’s reasoning is the more spiritual of the bunch – scattering his son’s ashes (Emilio Estevez, also the director), who died whilst trying to complete the same trek. The film moves along at a solid pace, with a multitude of progressive montages interspersed throughout. Thankfully, due to some well chosen and varied music, these avoid seeming like easy narrative vehicles and never make the experience drag.
Second to some horribly grainy visuals and opening credits that would look tacky on The History Channel, the biggest issue with The Way is the lack of impact it has on its audience. The journey is both a pleasing and entertaining one to watch, but it never feels like much more than a holiday for the four companions. It lacks a spiritual cutting edge, a depth that will imprint the film on your mind for a period of time after viewing. Only Sheen’s performance, along with the friendly-looking meals and drinking sessions, stay with me now. Still, it did look like fun – The Way is a journey I wouldn’t mind taking.