This isn’t really a movie review. I am expressing gratitude for a film. Which one? The Way, starring Martin Sheen and directed by his son, Emilio Estevez.
I purchased the DVD a few weeks ago and recently found the time to watch it. I can’t say enough about it… I viewed it twice in one day last week and once again today. I feel compelled to watch it again before 2015 is over, which means I’ll be up early tomorrow morning to pop it in the DVD player right after Morning Prayer.
As the movie is over 5 years old, I won’t worry about ruining it with “spoilers,” besides, I don’t think knowing what happens harms the experience of watching the film.
In short, Martin Sheen plays Tom Avery, a Ventura County, California eye doctor whose son, Daniel, played by Emilio Estevez, is travelling about the world because he has to get it out of his system. Daniel is a Ph. D candidate who decides to not finish his dissertation. He determines that the real world is more important than ivory towers. And so he goes off to China, Nepal and elsewhere.
Near the beginning of the movie, we learn that he is in France. And shortly after, Tom learns through a phone call from the French gendarmerie that Daniel was killed in a freak storm in the French Pyrenees. Tom travels to France to claim the remains and return home. Once there, he learns from the French gendarme who notified him of Daniel’s death that Daniel died while going on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. “The Camino” is a 1,000 year-old pilgrimage ending up at the Tomb of St. James the Apostle. If you do a search for that, you’ll learn much more than I can tell you here; clicking on the movie link in the first paragraph is a good start.
After Tom learns of Daniel’s pilgrimage and goes through the gear that was found on his body, he impulsively decides to finish Daniel’s journey. This is not something that one “just decides to do,” for the Camino is about 500 miles long and training is usually required. Tom is over 60. Did I mention that you have to walk it? (But this is a movie, after all… but… perhaps there is a lesson here?)
And so Tom takes Daniel’s gear as well as Daniel (his body was cremated), and starts.
Tom begins the journey and meets numerous people along the Way. Although consumed by his son’s death and the accompanying grief, he reluctantly gathers three companions for the trip. Joost from Amsterdam is the first, and he is doing the Camino to lose weight. His wife no longer wants to be “intimate” with him and he’s had warnings from his doctor. Sarah from Canada is next, she says that she’s doing the Camino to quit smoking. (There’s another reason, which I won’t disclose.) Finally joining the group is Jack from Ireland. He’s a travel writer who is afflicted with writer’s block. He’s there to write a book on the Camino (interviewing pilgrims) and get “unblocked.”
And then stuff happens, 😉 finishing with their arrival at St. James’ Cathedral. (Do they know how to build Cathedrals, or what???)
It is a deceptively simple movie; seeing it several times so quickly keeps me “in it” and enables me to pick out certain things I otherwise would have missed. In other words, the movie remains fresh and seeing it again so soon helps me to add layers of comprehension. It is also not a typical film, very character- and idea-driven, unlike most Hollywood movies.
I now have a tremendous desire to go on Camino, although I doubt it will happen due to physical and financial issues. Bursitis in my arms, arthritis in my shoulders and feet (the feet also have bone spurs/calcified deposits – complications from old sprains) hinder me.
Why did I say that “I am expressing gratitude for” the film? Going “on Camino” is a basic theme of my recovery; “trudging the road of happy destiny” is an AA phrase for a journey for personal recovery (namely, “life.”) I am “here,” I need to go “there,” and going through whatever is in the way is my path. I am a firm believer that the journey is a part of the destination. A journey, or passage, is a symbol for me of conversion and transformation.
This is why the film “spoke to me,” and why I have these compulsions to watch it repeatedly. It’ll pass, it’s not like I’ll be obsessed with it and will end up watching it 500 times (well, maybe over a thirty-year span…) Right now it’s a new discovery that I’m going to enjoy in the near future and many times beyond.
“The Way” is undoubtedly now one of my favorite movies (the list includes “Casablanca.”)Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics" and "The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts" (Thank you!!)