The Way Review

The Way, the latest directorial effort from Emilio Estevez following the uneven but enjoyable Bobby, is a film filled with entirely earnest sentiments and reasonably lofty aspirations. Throughout the film though these earnest sentiments are presented in a twee and hard to stomach manner and any of the obvious aspirations are never really met, the film falling short of saying anything particularly profound.

The film begins with the death of Daniel, Estevez playing this role in addition to writing and directing, the son of Tom (Martin Sheen), a doctor with a quiet life and a private practice. Learning of Daniel’s death Tom flies out to retrieve his ashes and after being informed that Daniel has died in a freak weather accident whilst attempting the Camino de Santiago pillgrimage he decides to finish what his son started and take his ashes the whole route of the pilgrimage.

Daniel and Tom never saw eye to eye though with Daniel the stereotypical middle class guy going travelling and Tom the stereotypical wealthy country club member, not the kind of guy suited to setting out on this pilgrimage. What plays out over the more than two hour running time does little to flesh out Tom or Daniel’s characters, Daniel is technically dead though (he occasionally ‘appears’ to Tom at crucial moments), and as we see Tom struggle to get along with those that he meets during his travels and deal with obstacles in his path, mostly moments where he far too narratively conveniently loses his rucksack, there is little real development.

When Tom finally reaches his destination and essentially transforms into a copy his son the lack of compromise in the position the film takes is pretty damning of anyone who does’t think that the zenith of ones life is backpacking. Throughout the film though it states its case in a very deliberately gentle and sedate manner which becomes increasingly grating, briefly punctuated as it is by the somewhat energetic but often awkward introductions of the ‘wacky’ Wizard of Oz-esque companions on Tom’s pilgrimage – the ‘kerrazy’ Dutch guy looking to lose weight, the ascerbic Canadian who is a big softy really and James Nesbitt as the hyperactive and opportunistic Irish writer. The gradual addition of each of these characters and the relationship between them could have helped add some much need forward momentum and heart but each new character makes the whole thing far harder to engage with and take seriously.

Add to this the use of montages of everyone ‘getting along’ and a soundtrack that is pretty mawkish throughout, one montage is cut to a song by Alanis Morissette, and The Way never reaches any much needed profundity or real emotional weight.

Whilst not a film one would urge people to avoid, many will almost certainly find its cultural tourism and intended life affirming messages incredibly endearing, but for most lines such as, “You can’t learn about the world at school.” will help push The Way into the point of near parody.

The review was originally posted at HeyUGuys.