The Way (12A)

The ViewBristol Review

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Review byMatthew Turner13/05/2011

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 128 mins

Thoughtful and emotionally engaging, this is a nicely shot, well acted drama that's heightened by the obviously personal nature of the project, though the writing occasionally falters and the film is slightly too long.

What's it all about?
Directed by Emilio Estevez, The Way is based partly on the book by travel writer Jack Hitt and partly on personal experience. Martin Sheen (Estevez's real-life father) stars as Californian ophthalmologist Dr Tom Avery, who travels to France to collect the ashes of his adult son Daniel (Emilio Estevez), who has died while undertaking the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St James), the famed two-month pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.

In an attempt to reconnect with the memory of his son, Tom impulsively decides to walk the Camino de Santiago himself, carrying Daniel's ashes with him and intending to scatter them at the end of the trail. Along the way he picks up three very different companions: chatty Dutchman Joost (Yorek van Wageningen), who's walking the trail to lose weight; jaded Canadian Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), who's fleeing a divorce and trying to quit smoking; and struggling Irish travel writer Jack (James Nesbitt), who's just plain annoying.

The Good
Sheen is excellent as Tom, delivering an affecting performance as an emotionally reticent man of few words, to whom friendship obviously does not come easily; his gradual (but not extensive) softening towards his makeshift companions is both believable and quietly touching as a result. There's also likeable support from van Wageningen and an enjoyably prickly performance from Unger.

The film is beautifully shot, with cinematographer Juan Miguel Azpiroz making strong use of the gorgeous scenery, to the point where you'll seriously consider doing the pilgrimage yourself.

The Bad
That said, there are a few mis-steps in the writing: for one thing, Nesbitt's speechifying introduction is jarring and doesn't fit with the rest of the film, just as his character doesn't feel as real as the other three. Similarly, the frequent appearances of an imaginary Estevez backfire a little and are unintentionally laughable, though they do at least have a decent emotional pay-off.

Though the pacing of the film is appropriately slow for a story about a very long walk, it's still fair to say that the running time is slightly too long and could easily have been trimmed by 20 minutes or so.

Worth seeing?
It won't appeal to everyone, but The Way is a quietly moving, superbly acted drama that conveys an illuminating message about the personal nature of pilgrimage. Worth seeing.

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The Way (12A)
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Content updated: 11/06/2012 03:46

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