Monday, April 16, 2012

The Way

The Way is perhaps one of the most spiritual movies I have seen in some time. The filmmakers describe their film as a powerful and inspirational story about family, friends, and the challenges we face while negotiating this ever-changing and complicated world. I would say they hit those themes straight on the head.

The Way is most certainly a “message” film. But don’t let that scare you or deter you from seeing it. It’s a message we are all living one way or another. This film is about a journey and finding meaning and purpose in life. We are all trying to do that. The Way is a family affair featuring father and son: Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. Sheen holds down the main acting role while Estevez serves as actor, director, producer and writer.

The premise or idea for the film was inspired when Estevez’s son, Taylor, began a pilgrimage on the Carmino De Santiago. Some call it the “Way of St. James” in which pilgrims began a walk which starts in France and continues for several hundred miles to a massive cathedral ending in Galicia, Spain. The reasons for the pilgrimage is as diverse as the people who take the journey.

Estevez says the movie is meant to be a film that is pro people, pro life and not against anything. The story starts with Thomas Avery (Martin Sheen) an ophthalmologist who lives the good life in California. He learns about the death of his son, Daniel (Emilio Estevez), who dies in the Pyrenees Mountains while he is attempting the walk of Carmino De Santiago. Thomas and Daniel have not seen eye-to-eye over the years. Nor have they spoken in some time. Daniel decided against finishing his doctorate and wanted to see the world. His father obviously objected and couldn’t understand why he wanted to throw a potentially brilliant career away.

After arriving in France, Thomas makes the decision to cremate his son’s body and decided to finish the pilgrimage for his son. Walking the way, he plans to spread Daniel’s ashes along the road. Perhaps, it’s a way for Thomas to reconnect with his son in a way he couldn’t do in life.

On the road, Thomas meets an assortment of characters that are on their pilgrimage’s for one reason or another. Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger) is a Canadian who wants to give up smoking. Joosh (Yorick Van Wageningen ) is from The Netherlands. His reason to walk The Way is to lose weight. Jack (James Nesbitt) is an Irishman who suffers from writer’s block.

At first, Thomas isn’t exactly looking for company. But soon, the four form a community and begin their quest. As the journey continues, it requires each pilgrim to examine his/her motivation and the real reason they are on this walk. Each of our characters may have a stated reason, but the truth is something altogether different. They all are looking for meaning and to make sense of life. The way of Carmino De Santiago is a personal journey, but our characters cannot do it alone. Perhaps, that’s one of the most interesting themes of this film. Our healing is tied to the journey and to community.

As the pilgrims are forced to walk for what amounts to two to three months, they have to come to terms with themselves and with what they really need from this pilgrimage. As I said, this is a spiritual movie. It’s not a religious movie as some of those who participate in the walk do not do it for religious purposes.

People have been making this pilgrimage for nearly a thousand years. The film as well as the walk is about loss, community, faith, and restoration. It’s a powerful film, beautifully shot and photographed. No question, it was a labor of love for both Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. The crew and the actors had to walk several kilometers to make this film.

If there is one line in the film that would sum up the entire journey, it would be this: “We don’t choose a life. We have to live a life.” Perhaps that’s the real secret behind the entire purpose of the Way of St. Thomas. Maybe the journey teaches us how to embrace and live life to its fullest while at the same time we connect with God in a more meaningful way.

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