Sheen shines as son directs
and formidable as ever, Martin Sheen stars as a set-in-his-ways Southern California eye doctor called to France to reclaim the body of his grown son, who died in a fall, in The Way. Emilio Estevez, Sheen’s real-life offspring – and The Way’s writer and director – is that son, a restless soul and everything his father is not. He had been in the Pyrenees, hiking the storied Camino de Santiago – the well-trod pilgrims’ path between France and Spain – when he was trapped in bad weather. Sheen’s Tom is on a golf course in Ventura when his mobile phone rings. It’s a policeman in southwest France. ‘‘Daniel is dead.’’ A heartfelt project, scrappy and engaging, The Way has its way with audiences despite, not because of, its sentimental excess. Tom initially plans to collect Daniel’s belongings and return home. But as he studies his son’s journals, and photos stored in his camera, he decides to complete the trek Daniel started, taking Daniel’s backpack and the canister containing his ashes. Armed with a guidebook, a map and sorrow in his heart, Tom embarks on his journey. A Dutch stoner (Yorick van Wageningen), a sad-eyed, acerbic Canadian (Deborah Kara Unger) and an Irish travel writer (James Nesbitt) become his travelling companions. This is Estevez’s fifth time directing (he’s done a fair bit of TV, too) and he gets wonderful stuff out of his dad – indrawn and brooding at first; raging, defiant and a little wacky as the journey progresses. The Way is less successful when it comes to the backstories of Tom’s respective sidekicks but the actors find something genuine in the material, making the rapport among these strangersturned-friends feel genuine.