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The Way

Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez

Directed by Emilio Estevez
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 3
Community: star rating
5 3 0
October 6, 2011

The Way, written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father Martin Sheen in one of Sheen's best performances, depicts a spiritual journey. Words might scare off audiences out for cheap thrills. But open yourself up to this thoughtful, moving personal adventure and you’re in for a uniquely memorable experience. Sheen plays Tom Avery, a California ophthalmologist. Tom is also a widower long estranged from his only son, Daniel (Estevez), a wanderer Tom rejects for his lack of focus. When Tom learns that Daniel has died in a storm in the French Pyrenees, he leaves immediately to collect the body. Instead, he collects the truth about who his son was. Daniel had just started a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago, an 800-mile trek from the Pyrenees to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, the burial place of St. James. But as we learn, the journey can be motivated by reasons outside a search for God. Even as Tom stops along the way to spread the ashes of his son (played Estevez in flashbacks), he is stubborn non-believer. But the loner eventually hooks up with three other pilgrims, a Dutchman (a splendidly funny Yorick van Wageningen) trying to drop weight, an emotionally wounded Canadian woman (Deborah Kara Unger), and a Irish writer (James Nesbitt) who tries to draw Tom out and record the story of father and son. Estevez keeps his touch light, with a minimum of pedantry. The Way is really a gift from this son to his father. Sheen, gradually revealing a man painfully getting reacquainted with long buried feelings, who gives the film its bruised heart.

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