Director: Emilio Estevez ( Bobby) Stars: Emilio Estevez, Martin Sheen, Deborah Kara Unger, James Nesbitt, Yorick van Wageningen
Path the point of a slow return
‘‘ DON’T judge this,’’ a son pleads to his father during a scene in The Way. ‘‘ And don’t judge me.’’
The same sentiments could and should be applied to The Way as a whole.
This is a movie that bravely wears a purity of heart out on its sleeve for all to see.
Serial cynics just won’t be able to resist The Way’s open invitation to ridicule. Fair enough. And more fool them, I say.
For those prepared to follow where The Way wishes to wander, however, the journey will be one well worth taking.
In his finest screen performance in many years, Martin Sheen plays Tom, a level- headed and conservative Californian doctor forced to drop everything when he is told his itinerant son has died while hiking overseas.
The late Daniel – played in a handful of flashbacks by Emilio Estevez, Sheen’s own son who also wrote and directed the picture – could not have been more different from his father.
So when Tom arrives on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees mountains to reclaim his son’s body, it is hard not to discern a business- like air to his grief.
But after taking a look at Daniel’s journals and the photos stored on his camera, Tom’s stoic stance begins to gradually recede.
In homage to his dead son, Tom decides to complete Daniel’s intended journey – a walking trek along the famous Camino de Santiago, a pilgrims’ pathway linking Spain to France.
At significant mileposts en route, Tom discreetly sprinkles a handful of Daniel’s ashes.
So far, so mawkish, huh? Again, don’t judge. The Way really hits its stride once it locks in on charting Tom’s emotional reawakening.
The feeling that Tom is emerging from a protective shell of his own making is carefully nurtured by Estevez from behind the camera. Few false notes are hit as this process is worked through.
What keeps you believing is not only the unfailingly credible acting of Sheen but also the comfortable and unforced manner in which Tom interacts with fellow travellers on his journey.
Genuine screen rapport is an elusive commodity at the best of times, but The Way is blessed with an abundance of the stuff.
Though Tom shares little in common with the likes of a burly, party- hardened Dutchman ( Yorick van Wageningen), an acid- tongued Canadian ( Deborah Kara Unger) or an overly upbeat Irishman ( James Nesbitt), the shared experiences are easily understood and hard to resist.
STOIC: Martin Sheen plays a father who heads overseas to recover his dead son’s body.