Last night I saw The Way. This movie, starring Martin Sheen, is one of the most beautiful and moving films I have seen in a long time. I highly recommend it. If you can catch it in a theater, so much the better because of it’s visual beauty.
In The Way, Martin Sheen plays an ophtalmologist named Tom, who discovers that his adult son, one with whom he has had a difficult relationship, is dead. The son, Daniel, died in the Pyrenees while walking El Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James). This famous pilgrimage, walked by over 200,000 people in 2010, is about 500 miles long, from the start in France to its conclusion in Spain. Tom travels to France to collect the body of his son, and ends up walking the Camino as a way of working out his grief and his confused relationship with Daniel. In fact, Tom is working out his relationship with himself and with God.
The Way was written and directed by Emilio Estevez, Martin Sheen’s son in real life. Estevez appears in the movie at times, which gives it a particular poignancy. But Estevez did not fall into the trap of cliché and overcooked emotion. I never felt jerked around by this film. On the contrary, I was deeply moved and often surprised.
Without giving away too much, let me say that one of the great surprises of The Way has to do with friendship, unlikely friendship. Tom intends to do his pilgrimage, indeed, his penance, alone. But he ends up sharing life with people he would prefer to dislike and ignore. The Way makes a powerful point about sharing the “journey” of life together.
I’m glad to report that the journey metaphor, so present throughout The Way, is also not overdone. Though it’s clear from this film that life is a walk, a journey, a pilgrimage, Estevez doesn’t feel the need to hit us over the head with this truth. In fact, in one very funny scene, we are warned not to over interpret the images of life.
This is a deeply religious film, but not a preachy film. In fact, I can imagine some Christians being disappointed that God’s grace wasn’t more obviously portrayed. I found myself moved by the sense of God’s profound but often obscure and unexpected presence.
Many thanks to Emilio Estevez, Martin Sheen, an their team for the marvelous gift of The Way. It’s a gift you should be sure to open.