Thursday 12 May 2011

The Way

This file is on general release in the UK from tomorrow. Unfortunately I have to go to France to lead a retreat tomorrow, so I will just have to wait until next week. Meanwhile, a review, from our friends at ICN

The Way: a review by: Jo Siedlecka

Every year, one or two films stand out for their sheer beauty, the quality of the script and acting and the profound story they tell. For me last year, it was 'Of Gods and Men' (before that - maybe Little Miss Sunshine.) This year undoubtedly, it's The Way - written, produced and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father Martin Sheen - which opens across the UK on Friday.
This latter-day Canterbury Tales tells the story of Tom, a buttoned-up American widower who travels to France after his son Daniel has been killed in a storm on the Camino to Compostella.  Frozen with grief Tom decides to make the pilgrimage himself in Daniel’s memory and grudgingly falls in with a disparate group of people along the way, that he would never have met at his golf club in California. The script and casting are superb here. None of these people are what you would expect. There is the grass smoking Joost (Yorick van Wageningen) a endearing Dutchman who wants to lose a bit of weight; Sarah (Deborah Unger) a Canadian girl with attitude and Jack (James Nesbitt) a totally manic writer from Belfast - as well as a wonderful collection of real-life pilgrims  - the devout ones, the party animals, mountain bikers and artists. These footsore folk find a bed each night in some welcoming hostels, some grim ones and some that are downright surreal. 

The path through the Spanish countryside is depicted in breathtaking long shots and the villages and towns along the way look stunning. A wonderful soundtrack includes Alanis Morrisette, Coldplay and James Taylor. All the actors turn in superb performances - with Sheen particularly good - very understated and intense.

They are some hilarious moments,  and touching ones,  as he glimpses Daniel on the road.   The film is being promoted for its religious theme - and on one level that is correct.  It is set on one of the oldest Christian pilgrim routes in the world and there is much incidental Christian iconography en route - crucifixes and statues of Our Lady.  But don't expect much conventional piety or spoken prayer.  The film is Christian at a much more profound level and will be appeal to people with no religious faith at all I am sure. It is a beautiful study of a father-son relationship – and a life-affirming reflection on tolerance and hope.

Speaking about the film earlier this year, Martin said: “The experience along the Camino is so universal .. and can change lives and relationships. Despite all their problems, it’s about how people discover they are loved and began to love each other. That’s the whole point of community.

“I always think of Teilhard de Chardin, when he wrote:  'When we discover that we are loved we discover fire for the second time.  Its with that fire that we warm and enlighten each other.'"

Source: ICN

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