The Way

 

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THE WAY—-most backpackers off to see the World are young, setting out for the exotic and unknown giddy and excited, launched by the hugs and kisses of well-wishers. ‘Thomas Avery’ (Martin Sheen) is middle-aged and grief-stricken, in France to claim the body of his son. Struck with the inspiration of homage, he decides to follow and complete his boys ill-fated journey, a pilgrimage across Spain, the legendary find-yourself spiritual trek of El Camino de Santiago de Compestela ,or, if you prefer, The Way Of St. James.  En route: new friends, challenging experiences, joy, tears, renewal.

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Few movies get the lure of travel or have captured its bracing elixir as well as this beautiful 2010 drama, written & directed with clear affection and skill by the star’s son Emilio Estevez, who based the witty and compassionate script on his own family’s stories of the trip. He also took a leaf or two out of The Wizard of Oz, with its themes of community and hope/faith arising out of individual longings and shared exposure, struggle and revelation.

Shot over 40 days on the actual locations, the small cast & crew walking over 215 miles, it runs 121 minutes and is so enthralling and redolent of the spirit of wanderlust that it could have just kept going and going and I’d have been happy. Get out those boots!

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It’s too good to spoil with detailing of incidental scenes; suffice to say that among the funny, touching, nervy and embarrassing pieces of the whole there are types and situations that those who’ve hit the road will recognize and those who yearn to explore will be goosed by. Sheen is fine as ever as the emotionally guarded but gradually opening pilgrim, and there is bright work from Deborah Kara Unger, James Nesbitt, Tcheky Karyo and best of all, Yorick van Wageningen, perfectly capturing all those charming Hollanders you should be blessed enough to share hostels with–this guy is a great actor.

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Little gem (with the perfect ending) earned $4,431,000 and a place in the heart of many who’ve seen it.

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