FILM REVIEW: The Way
- November 4, 2011 1:00 AM |
- By Eli Glasner
The Way is a sentimental and at times sappy film, but it's honest. By which I mean to say it doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is.
The setting is Europe. Martin Sheen plays Tom, a gruff eye doctor who flies to France to collect his estranged son's remains. Emilo Estevez (who also directed The Way) makes a couple of brief appearances as Daniel, the son who was killed in accident at the beginning of the religious pilgrimage known as El Camino de Santiago. Every year seekers and believers from around the world gather in France to walk the more then 700 km path to the coast of Spain, following in the footsteps of St. James.
After arriving and identifying his son, Tom decides to finish Daniel's journey. Tom is quiet, cantankerous sort, but soon this optometrist gathers followers: Portly Dutchman Joost, bitter Canadian Sarah (add bad "aboot" and "eh" jokes here) and the best of the bunch James Nesbitt as Jack, an Irishman suffering from writer's block.
The Way functions as a poor man's Eat Pray Love. The scenery is glorious, the the soundtrack comforting. (Hope you like James Taylor.) Mile by mile Tom's group grows and their stories spool out as each character casts off a little bit of their baggage.
Martin Sheen does a lot of walking against beautiful vistas. (Elixir Films)
Under the direction of Estevez The Way is an actor's movie and it's left to the four journeymen (and woman) to rise above the boilerplate dialogue. Estevez doesn't over-torque the story and gives his actors room to play off each other. For fans of President Bartlet, Tom may be a shock. The curmudgeon takes his time warming up but that strengthens the payoff. Watch his face collapse inward, imploding, flush with grief at the sight of his son's lifeless body and you know this is an actor with something to share.
Nesbitt brings a welcome infusion of energy, appearing about mid-way through. The character of Jack is a mix of bitterness lightened by wry Irish wit. He also provides someone strong enough to finally confront Tom and provoke a vino-fueled outburst.
The Way is a movie filled with mild pleasures and wide open vistas. Those looking for thrills and spills will have to settle with a backpack burglery, which leads to beautiful evening hosted by the local Roma community filled with drink and dance. There is a thread of spirituality running through The Way, but like Sheen himself, the film isn't one to proselytize. Just an invitation to join the journey.
RATING: Three Scallop Shells out of five.
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