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Martin Sheen
James Nesbitt
Deborah Kara Unger
Yorick van Wageningen
Emilio Estevez.
Emilio Estevez.
Running Time
128 minutes

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The Way
President Bartlet takes a walk. Again

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After the sudden death of his globe-trekking son Daniel (Estevez), Tom (Sheen) flies to the Pyrenees to collect his body. But he spontaneously decides to complete Daniel’s journey, scattering his son’s ashes along the 800km Way Of St. James, a pilgrim’s path which becomes a life-changing experience.

The Way
The Way is the story of a son’s wonderful gift to his father. And the film itself is Emilio Estevez’s gift to his father Martin Sheen, a soulful journey created to fulfil Sheen’s long-held dream of walking the historic Way Of St. James. It’s been trod by Catholics, seekers and trekkers for a thousand years. Besides its spiritual and scenic aspects it passes through Galicia, birthplace of Sheen’s father, Francisco, to whom the film is dedicated.

Estevez took inspiration from Jack Hitt’s collection of stories, Off The Road, and contrived the perfect, personalised excuse for father and son to make the journey together. And what good travelling companions they prove. Sheen’s Tom is a widower and affluent Californian opthamologist who is on the golf course when he gets the call that his son has died in a freak storm while hiking in southern France. Tom is bewildered as well as bereft. The two had parted unpleasantly, Tom insistent on choosing a conventional life and getting on with it while Daniel opted to wander the world, arguing, “You don’t choose a life, you live it.”

On a rare impulse, Tom decides to honour Daniel’s philosophy by completing The Way Of St. James. The physical demands of walking 800km and the unwanted company of fellow travellers are initially things Tom endures in his impatience to reach journey’s end. But along the way, nudged by visions of Daniel savouring a small incident, a gorgeous landscape, a moment, Tom finds himself looking inwards and letting himself experience the journey itself.

En route he attracts a band of inescapable companions, each with a tale to tell, including an exuberant, wining and dining, dope-smoking Dutchman (delightful Yorick Van Wageningen), a bitter Canadian (affecting Deborah Kara Unger) and a talkative Irish author (James Nesbitt) with writer’s block. Camaraderie, revelations and misadventures come with the blisters. Bedecked with an eclectic score, humour and tears, it’s a mood-piece as much as it is about characters. And although it is sedately paced (it is a long walk, after all), Sheen’s subtle performance — surly, uptight, cautiously poignant — builds in emotional impact, prompting one’s own reflections on the journey of life.

Gentle, likable and profoundly touching, it makes you want to dig out the hiking boots and make the same journey.

Reviewed by Angie Errigo

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Average user rating for The Way
Empire Star Rating

one of the BEST films of 2011

i saw this in the cinema martin sheen was perfect i loved this film the acting the cinematography the soundtrack the script one of the BEST film of 2011 i hope sheen is nominated ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bill the butcher at 18:11, 04 September 2011 | Report This Post

Thoroughly enjoyable, could have been a little shorter but a lovely heartwarming film. Made me google the Camino when I got home. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bill Clay at 08:42, 16 May 2011 | Report This Post

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