Tom (Martin Sheen) leads a safe life back in America where he works as a doctor and plays golf with his doctor friends. But his safe existence is rocked when he receives a call from France where his son Daniel (Emilio Estevez) has died. Heading straight there to find out what happened and arrange for Daniel's body to be returned home Tom learns that he died on a historical pilgrimage called The Camino de Santiago. As Tom tries to come to terms with the loss of his son he realises that he didn't really know him and so decides to do the pilgrimage himself with just his son's backpack, guides and his ashes. Along the way he meets a whole range of people who help him see what Daniel knew which is the difference between "The life we live and the life we choose."
Have you watched any movie where an American ends up travelling around a foreign country, falling in love with the scenery, meeting quirky locals and so on. Well if you have and enjoyed the experience then "The Way" whilst not exactly typical will be right up your street. But this may sound a cop out but "The Way" is a movie which shouldn't be reviewed or at least not in detail because director Emilio Estevez has crafted such a beautiful movie, a real journey that the less you know before watching the more enjoyable the journey is you go on as you watch.
So if you read the synopsis for "The Way" you can probably guess certain things; there will be some comedy when it comes to the odd-balls which Tom meets on his way and as Tom feels a need to do the pilgrimage his eyes will be opened to a much bigger world out there. But there is more to it than that because whilst the people Tom meets provide some comedy they also have a story of their own and Tom's journey of enlightenment is not as clear cut as it first seems.
But whilst the story to "The Way" is wonderful the performances through out are first rate from Deborah Kara Unger bringing a sense of bitterness to her part as Sarah whilst Yorick van Wageningen is brilliant as comic relief with his love of food and wine. But of course there is Martin Sheen and it almost feels like Sheen is just playing himself, being a bit shut off, forced to confront his own issues in the company of others and struggling to keep up with others. It is because it feels so natural that you warm to him as a person rather than because of his situation with doing the pilgrimage for his son.
Now whilst Martin Sheen is the star of the movie in front of the lens his son Emilio Estevez is the star behind the camera and you get a real sense that this story of a father walking The Camino de Santiago had some deeper meaning for him. His pacing is brilliant, the scenic shots never drag on and the variation in tone from fun to dramatic makes it a captivating drama from start to finish.
What this all boils down to is that "The Way" is one of those movies which really works. Maybe it is a case that there comes a point in your life when you start soul searching and movies which feature soul searching have a deeper meaning but this one has more tone and variation than the normal soul searching movies which keeps you watching and smile.