On The Way

Jan 1, 2012

You've probably heard about El Camino de Santiago, the famous pilgrimage in France and Spain. For more than a thousand years, people have walked The Way to reach the Cathedral of Compostela in Galicia, where tradition holds that the remains of St James are buried. Like me, you may not have thought a film could be made about it, but it has, and a good one. Also like me, you may have resisted reading about the Camino because of its religious overtones. You can put those fears aside.

With one smart move, Martin Sheen and his other son, Emilio Estevez, have recouped the family name. Sheen stars in, and former-Brat Packer Estevez wrote and directed The Way. As one character slyly tells another in the film, "Our children are the best and the worst of us." Say no more.

If you know anything about me, you'll know I don't promote religion or politics, the isms and schisms that divide, divide, divide. I don't like dogma of any sort. On the other hand, I will promote things I believe in. If you want to talk spirituality or human rights or good government then, Hey! I'm your guy.

The Way is not exactly drama, not exactly documentary, but neither is it mockumentary. It has no special effects, no car chases, no intricate plots, and no manufactured romances. The credits are mercifully short. In fact, it's unlike any other film I can recall. If anything, it's a mirror, plain and simple.

There is a story of sorts: a man loses his only son, goes to France to collect his body, and along the way things happen. But what's it about? you may wonder, as did I, but not for long, because you'll get wrapped up in watching. In a way, this film is a parable. It's The Wizard of Oz on a deeper level. A man has a quest, but doesn't know he has a quest, and while he walks The Way he reluctantly falls in with three companions, each of who has a quest. A Cowardly Lion, a Tin Man and a Man of Straw, if you like.

Still, the meaning of the film is up to you. You can read anything into it that you like, and it will speak to you. As one character tells another, "You walk the road for yourself, only for yourself." Because what this film is about, dear reader, is you. Only you. And so, it is beautiful.

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