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Review: The Way

“You don’t chose a life, Dad. You live one.” ~ Daniel Avery (Emilio Estevez) in The Way

The quotation above is probably the most succinct summary possible of the film, The Way, the new movie written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father, Martin Sheen. In brief, the story centers on Tom, brilliantly portrayed by Sheen, a 60-something ophthalmologist who loses his only son, Daniel, in a tragic accident.

In all truth, Daniel was lost to him long before the accident. But as Tom determinedly sets out to finish what Daniel had just started, making the pilgrimage of walking the Camino de Santiago as others have done for thousands of years, he has little understanding of the road ahead. What unfolds in the next hour and a half is the story of that journey. Tom and the merry band of stragglers who end up traveling with him tackle this road with growing honesty, to each other and to themselves. Through laughter and tears, forging friendships and even a sense of family, Tom and the rest discover what Daniel knew all along – everyone is on a journey, a quest of discovery, but not everyone finds their way.

Press photo, "The Way," from the official website

Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez at the Dayton Art Institute for a screening of their new movie, "The Way"

My husband and I received free tickets to attend the preview of this movie at the Dayton Art Institute and the question and answer session with Sheen and Estevez which followed. Not surprisingly, especially as Sheen is originally from Dayton and still has family here, the room was packed full. Students from the Wright State Film program, local clergy, fellow pellegrinos who had completed the walk, Dayton’s mayor, and members of the general public proved to be an interesting audience mix.

Yet despite the variety, the reactions across the room were identical – laughter at the unexpectedly humorous moments, some tears at the times when reality smacks the characters with its honesty, never letting them really escape from the journey they are making. And by the end? You realize what they do — even if you are not walking the Way of St. James, each person is on their own quest, trying to discover the life they want to live. Or as Tom discovers, “the difference between the life we live and the life we choose.”

Although it has obvious religious overtones, I would categorize this film as more spiritual than religious. As Estevez noted in the question and answer session, the literary structure of the film revisits The Wizard of Oz, imagery which rings apparent once stated. Sheen’s Tom is an out-of-place Dorothy in a Spanish Oz, and his comrades on the yellow-brick camino become as loveable as the familiar Tin Man, Lion, and Scarecrow, and with startlingly similar quests.

If you have the chance, I recommend this movie, if for no other reason than the scenery and landscapes. Filmed along the Camino de Santiago, the Spanish lands and people had me revisiting the months I lived there. Also, this project was the first ever to be allowed to film within the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, which is stunning. But the message is excellent as well.

Take a look at the trailer on the official movie site. If you like what you see, the movie will be out in theaters in October.

Either way, let me know what you think.

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