The Way

FILM REVIEW                                                             

The Way – a film by Emilio Estevez


I picked this film up accidentally in Sainsburys late one Friday evening while looking for some light entertainment!  It was accidental in that I’d never heard of it and, being about the Camino, the pilgrim route across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostella, I was afraid that my illusions of the Camino might somehow be shattered.  I could not have been more wrong!

This is a fictional film and while not overtly religious it nevertheless touches on issues of pain, healing and reconciliation.   Another of my fears was that it might be a bit “sweet” but, in fact, I found it very moving.

The story is about Tom (Martin Sheen), a successful American doctor who seems content with his “normal” suburban life in California.  Meanwhile his son Daniel (played by his real life son, Director and Writer Emilio Estevez) has a desire to see the world, a desire that Tom doesn’t understand. 

One day Tom receives a call from France to say that Daniel has been killed on the Camino.  Tom is devasted and travels to France to bring Daniel’s body home.  However, faced with Daniel’s belongings, the embittered Tom decides to complete the Camino in Daniel’s place and so begins a moving journey of discovery not just for Tom but for others he encounters on the Way. 

Initially the people he meets can irritate with their shallowness and insensitivity but, as the story unfolds so we, and they, discover more about each other.  Their companionship deepens with each eventually discovering redemption along the way.

The film was filmed on the Camino (including uniquely in the church of Saint James at Compostella) and many of the people in the background are pilgrims that the film crew encountered on the Way.  The views are stunning and, if nothing else, the film gives a very good understanding of the Camino, its risks, its joys, its challenges and its possibilities.  There are, in the film, many incidents both poignant and funny but never sugary or cringe-making. 

The screenplay was written by Emilio Estevez and it is worth listening carefully to the words as well as reflecting on the action.  It is also worth listening to the interviews with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez as they describe some of the miracles that happened during the filming.

This would make an excellent basis for a study group.


Hugh Burgess, January, 2012