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The Way is a 2010 American-Spanish drama film directed, produced and written by Emilio Estevez and starring Martin Sheen, Deborah Kara Unger, James Nesbitt, and Yorick van Wageningen. In it, Martin Sheen's character walks the Camino de Santiago, a traditional pilgrimage route in France and Spain.
Dr. Thomas Avery is an American ophthalmologist who goes to France following the death of his estranged adult son, Daniel, killed in the Pyrenees during a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James), a Christian pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. Tom's purpose is initially to retrieve his son's body. However, in a combination of grief and homage to his son, Tom decides to walk the ancient spiritual trail where his son died, taking Daniel's ashes with him.
On the pilgrimage, the group experiences challenges, such as when a young Romani steals Tom's backpack containing his son's ashes. Although the thief escapes, his father drags him back to Tom to return the pack, with embarrassed apologies and an offer in compensation to attend a Romani street party in the evening.
The film was inspired by Emilio Estevez's son, Taylor. The inspiration for the project happened in 2003. Taylor, at the time 19 years old, and Sheen, whose TV series The West Wing was on hiatus, traveled the pilgrimage route. Taylor, who served as an associate producer on the film, had driven the length of the Camino with his grandfather. On the way, he met the woman who would become his wife; thus, the Camino held special meaning for him. After the trip, a series of discussions started between Sheen and his son for a movie about the Camino de Santiago. Sheen originally suggested it be a low-budget documentary, but Estevez was not interested in such a small project, wanting instead a bigger experience.
Estevez also found inspiration in his vineyard, Casa Dumetz, where he wrote much of the dialogue for the film. Exploring the themes of loss, community, and faith, he saw parallels with the characters of the film The Wizard of Oz (1939). The script took six months to get a first draft.
Filming started on 21 September 2009 and took 40 days. The production company and actors walked between 300 and 350 kilometers during filming. Estevez had a very small crew and shot with available light; night-time sequences were filmed by candle and firelight. Considering the Camino is special to local people on the route, the filmmakers felt great pressure to get the details right.
According to a Christian Broadcasting Network interview, a key scene almost did not happen. With church leadership opposed to allowing the crew to shoot inside the famous cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Estevez says he took a leap of faith and asked everyone on set to pray for access. \"And it worked\", claimed Sheen. The crew was given permission just 48 hours before they were scheduled to shoot the scenes, which they felt were critical to the film.
Sheen originally suggested Michael Douglas or Mel Gibson for the lead role, but Estevez had written the main character's role specifically for his father. Aside from the main actors, those seen on-screen are real pilgrims from all over the world. One episode in the film involves a group of actual Romani people from Burgos.
The Way premiered in September 2010 at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival and was commercially released in Spain first, with its Spanish premiere on November 10, 2010. The Maltese premiere on February 28, 2011 benefited a tiny Maltese organization, the Pope John XXIII Peace Lab of Ħal Far, which provides shelter to asylum seekers. The shelter, established in 1971, had not sought the funding.
The film was released in the United Kingdom in May 2011 and in the United States in October 2011. Estevez and Sheen took a promotional bus tour in promotion of the film across the United States and through some parts of Canada. The film was released on DVD in February 2012.
The film took in $110,418 in its U.S. opening weekend; as of February 2012, it had made $4,430,765 (or $4,430,650) domestically (with its widest release in 283 U.S. theaters), and $7,451,541 internationally.
The film has received a \"Certified Fresh\" rating of 83% on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on a sample of 100 reviews, with an average score of 6.6/10. The consensus description is: \"It may be a little too deliberately paced for more impatient viewers, but The Way is a worthy effort from writer/director Emilio Estevez, balancing heartfelt emotion with clear-eyed drama that resists cheap sentiment.\" Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 64 out of 100 based on 28 critics indicating \"generally favorable reviews\".
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine gave the film three out of four stars, while Andrew Schenker of Slant Magazine gave it 1 out of 4 stars. Eric Kohn of Indiewire gave the film a \"B+\" rating, commenting that \"Estevez's narrative is dominated by master shots of the landscape capturing Tom and his pals wandering through the wilderness and small villages, exploring ancient cathedrals and local traditions.\" Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter wrote a mixed review, stating: \"Emilio Estevez's The Way is an earnest film, its heart always in the right place, but it's severely under dramatized.\" Sheri Linden of Los Angeles Times noted that The Way is more low-key, cohesive, and personal than Estevez's preceding film Bobby.
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Emilio Estevez's \"The Way\" was inspired by his son, stars his father, is dedicated to his grandfather, and was written and directed by himself. It's a sweet and sincere family pilgrimage, even if a little too long and obvious. Audiences seeking uplift will find it here.
The story involves a California doctor named Tom (Martin Sheen), whose son Daniel dies while attempting to complete the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James), a centuries-old pilgrimage over Spanish mountain country to the Cathedral de Santiago. Daniel was apparently religious. Tom is definitely not. He flies to Spain to identify his son's body, oversees its cremation and decides on the spot to scatter the ashes along the Way that Daniel planned to trek. In a nice touch, he even uses Daniel's backpack and hiking gear.
Daniel (Estevez) appears to him from time to time, in visions or imagination, as Tom rethinks their relationship. That adds a touching, buried level to the story, because in real life, Estevez and his father are making the same journey in order to make this film. Their relationship has been as loyal and healthy as possible, in contrast to the family outrider, Charlie Sheen, who one cannot imagine walking three steps along this path.
A two-hour film of a surly man walking alone is not a promising idea. Although he prefers to keep his distance from others, Tom finds himself journeying with three other pilgrims. The most entertaining is Joost (Yorick van Wageningen), a cheerful Dutchman, who Tom does his best to ditch but keeps turning up, undiscouraged. Then there is Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), an unhappily divorced woman from Canada, who looks rich in a way that hasn't bought her happiness. And Jack (James Nesbitt), an Irish writer, who unfortunately embodies most of the garrulous jollity of the Irish and little of the wit and charm.
They are traversing beautiful country, which Estevez's camera employs without postcard excesses, and along the way, they of course encounter colorful locals and fellow pilgrims, have some small adventures and (inevitably) nearly lose the container with the ashes. At the end, Tom has arrived at some sort of reconciliation with his son and forgiven him for having undertaken the damn fool pilgrimage in the first place.
That isn't a lot to happen in a full-length film, and after a point, it begins to seem much of a muchness. Your response to it may depend on how receptive you are to the idea of the journey. Since both Sheen and Estevez are public about their Catholicism, I'm not sure what the point was of making Tom so firmly secular; perhaps so that even he, following so many centuries of footsteps, can sense some of their spirituality. \"The Way\" is a nice film. Not great, not urgent, but quietly positive.
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