A coworker of mine once criticized the Lord of the Rings movies for having way too much walking, but that’s what a quest is for. It’s what happens during the walk that matters. The Way received little fanfare upon its release in 2010, but when my family heard about it, we decided to go see it on Halloween night (since I was too old for trick-or-treating by that time). Most people watch horror movies at that time of year, but this was much more inspiring.
The film was the brainchild of Emilio Estevez, who directed, produced, wrote, and starred in the film as the deceased Daniel. Inspired by Martin Sheen’s own journey with Estevez’s son, who met his future wife on the Camino, the film isn’t melodramatic or overly sentimental. Martin Sheen evokes a father’s pain at the loss of his son in very realistic ways, clamming up, yelling when his inhibitions are lowered, feeling he must take this journey but wanting to get it over with as soon as possible. All the other characters likewise seem very authentic, not fitting into a tired Hollywood archetype. Yorick van Wageningen, Deborah Kara Unger, and James Nesbitt are quite convincing as Joost, Sarah, and Jack, all of whom have quirks that clearly irritate Tom but aren’t enough to make them unlikable as characters. They’re the kind of traveling companions one would hope to find on such a journey. (By the way, if it wasn’t for this film introducing me to James Nesbitt, I would be totally unfamiliar with the thirteen dwarves in The Hobbit. He played Bofur and was at least one face I could recognize.)
The entire film was shot on the actual Camino, with all the walkers being real pilgrims, aside from the main actors. This heightens the authenticity but doesn’t detract from the artistry. Estevez’s skillful camerawork frequently focuses on a close-up of something, whether meaningful or insignificant, and then switches to a wide shot showing the enormity of the Camino and the surrounding countryside. The little character moments along the way range from funny to touching, and the final outcome for the travelers’ reasons for walking the Camino is more realistic than most Hollywood fare. It also presents Gypsies in a more sympathetic light than I think many Europeans would.
The final scene in the cathedral is not only fascinating (there’s a giant thurible called Botafumeiro that swings incense throughout the entire church) but also especially moving and brought my VC to tears. Estevez claimed he wanted to make a film that could appeal to everyone, “pro-people, pro-life, not anti-anything,” and I think he succeeded. The religious elements can appeal to Christians (though Catholicism technically forbids the spreading of ashes), but there’s enough cynicism and character-driven drama to captivate everyone else. It makes me want to perhaps walk the Camino myself one day. Who knows?
Best line (a frequent excuse for not doing things in life): (Tom) “Have you ever walked the Camino, Señora?” (Spanish woman in the stamp office) “No. When I was young, I was too busy, and now that I’m older, I’m too tired.”Artistry: 9 Characters/Actors: 10 Entertainment: 8 Visual Effects: N/A Originality: 9 Watchability: 8 Other (brief language): -1 TOTAL: 43 out of 60
Next: #185 – Spaceballs (now for something completely different)
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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