“You don’t choose a life, you live one.
Tonight, The Cinnamon Girl, the kids and I ended a peaceful and reflective Holy Week, Triduum and Easter by our annual viewing of Emilio Estevez’s The Way. Estevez directed his father, Martin Sheen, in this small movie that opened in 2010 and remained in theaters far longer than an independent movie such as this one should have. The Way tells the story of Tom, a widower optometrist played by Martin Sheen, who is estranged from his son Daniel, who appears – via flashback – in a performance by Emilio Estevez.
The reasons for the father and son estrangement are never made fully clear to the audience. Chalk it up to dad wanting son to settle into a traditional career path and son wanting to follow his own, well, way through life. Prior to the beginning of the film, and this is no spoiler, Daniel is killed while walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in the Pyrenees. The Camino de Santiago de Compostela is also called the Way of St. James and is a pilgrim route that leads from France through Spain to the reputed burial-place of St. James. To walk it requires commitment. It requires one to be in good shape. It requires deep desire.
Sheen’s Tom has none of these when he arrives in St. Jean Pied de Port, France to pick up his son’s remains to bring them home. Deciding, in a moment of spiritual connection with his progeny to take up Daniel’s trek, Tom wraps himself up in his son’s North Face and begins walking.
Clearly the journey itself is a metaphor, and a beautifully drawn one at that. Laden with images of mercy and forgiveness, friendship and fellowship and the struggle and joy found between fathers and son, the movie proceeds with a gentle pace while always heading in a clear direction. Moments of laughter are juxtaposed with soul moving stillness as the audience, along with Tom, picks up and leaves behind companions on his journey, traverses a breathtaking landscape and learns about his own spiritualism, his religion and his soul.
The Way is not heavy-handed with its religious symbolism, though the penultimate scene does take place in a beautiful Catholic church, and it doesn’t beat one over the head with the symbolism of “doubting” Thomas, the optimistic, who cannot clearly see the way through the Lion’s Den of life that Daniel did. But there is plenty to think about upon reflection following viewing the film.
One could do worse than spending 2 hours on The Way.
You can stream it from amazon HERE. And you should.
The Way is certainly on my personal list of my Top Ten Favorite Movies it reminds me why each time I watch it.