Saturday, October 29, 2011

"The Way" with Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez and Deorah Unger (2011)

This is an intensely personal film, in that it is the true story about the death of director Emilio Estevez' son while hiking the Pyrenees between France and Spain. The purpose of the hike was to trod the road taken by so many Catholics over the centuries in tribute to Santiago de Compostela who made the journey centuries ago, arriving at the site of the famed cathedral named after him.

The film was written, and directed, by Mr. Estevez in tribute to his son, named Daniel in the film, and whom he plays in flashbacks. Daniel suffered a fatal injury on the pilgrimage. His death necessitated his father, named Tom in the film, played by Martin Sheen, traveling to France in order to collect his son's remains. Mr. Sheen was Daniel's real grandfather. Along the way he remembers the conversations he had with his son about taking this journey, and on a whim he decides to take the trip his son never got to complete. It is worth noting that Mr. Estevez' grandfather was born and grew up around the area in which Daniel meets his fate. As I said, this is a very personal film.

The Camino de Santiago crosses the Pyrenees from France to Spain, ending at the Cathedral. Tom decides to take this journey partly in tribute to his son, as well as a way to come to terms with his death. He is hoping to find the meaning of his son's death, but soon begins looking for the meaning behind his own life.

Tom, a widower, had not been especially close to his son in the last few years of his too short life. The last contact he had with Daniel took the form of a phone call in which Daniel describes the journey he is about to embark upon. The next call Tom receives is from the French authorities. His son is dead and now he must go to France to claim the remains, which in this case are ashes.

When he begins the trip he starts to experience flashbacks of the father-son conflicts they had been through. Daniel has repeatedly asked that his father not "judge" him. In reality, Tom doesn't want to judge him at all; merely understand him. Arriving in France he meets a French policeman, played by Tcheky Karyo, who explains the history, and meaning, of the journey his son was taking. This serves to propel Tom on the path that his son was walking at the time of his death. He also plans to scatter his son's ashes at various places along the way.

There are three major characters whom Tom meets, and befriends, along the way. There is the obese Dutch party guy, played by Yorick van Wageningen; an Irish braggart suffering from writer’s block, played by James Nesbitt; and finally the chain-smoking Canadian woman, played by Deborah Kara Unger, who never learned how to be civil. Tom is stuck with this group as he struggles to keep his reasons for the hike to himself.

But as the group make their way across the mountains defenses break down, as each of the group comes to realize that life is not so much about changing the things you don't like about yourself. Sometimes it's more about accepting who you really are, and then moving on, content with that knowledge.

Some reviewers have likened the movie to both "The Canterbury Tales", as well as "The Wizard of Oz", both of which Estevez has called inspirations for the film.

For more about the making of this extraordinary film, including the parallels to "The Wizard of Oz", read the interview with Mr. Estevez at;

http://www.avclub.com/articles/martin-sheen-emilio-estevez,62918/

2 comments:

  1. I think you might be mixed up - Emilio Estevez son, Taylor Levi Estevez, is still alive.

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  2. Apparently you are correct. I thought the film was a true story- but it's not. Thanks for the heads up. Here's a paragraph about the film which shows my error... from Wikipedia."In 2003, actor Emilio Estevez’s then 19-year-old son, Taylor, returned from a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) in Spain with surprising news: He had met someone, he was in love, and he was moving to Spain. Two years later, while visiting his son, Estevez met some of the Camino pilgrims and came away with a great interest in the pilgrimage. He began talking with his father, actor Martin Sheen, about the idea of a film about the Camino."

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