The Way – **

Posted: June 18, 2012 in 2010, Drama, USA, XX

Martin Sheen stars in this road movie as an older optometrist who learns that his son has been killed in France. As he flies over to organize the repatriation of the body, he learns that his son had just started walking the pilgrimage trail to Santiago De Compestela. Remembering some of his son’s last words, he impulsively decides to walk the trail himself, carrying along the ashes of his deceased son.

Now, that’s an awesome story! Perfect material for a gripping novel! And a great idea for a visually and emotionally strong movie.

However, in the end, it was just a great idea. The outcome isn’t bad, but isn’t all that exciting either. Martin Sheen is delivering a great performance, but his character is too grumpy and cynical to be likable. Actually, not grumpy and cynical enough to be likable. I’m just imagining Jack Nicholson playing this part and he would have made it fun! There is humor in this movie though, but it’s repetitive and predictable. It’s also pretty obvious what will happen along the way, especially after you’ve seen the trailer which shows almost the entire movie in 3 minutes. As a road movie it also doesn’t make too much use of the beauty of the surroundings. Compared to Into The Wild for instance, where nature plays a huge part of the story, the scenery in this picture seems like a collection of background images. Only at the end do you see the characters really enjoy the beauty of Northern Spain.

Biased – as always – by the current events taking place in my life, I did enjoy this movie a lot. I just finished hiking a whole day in the Middle Rhine Valley and met several people who were hiking for days on end. It made me think about doing the St James Way one day, or any other trekking trail. Why do people do the pilgrimage? And does it help? After having seen this movie, I’m certain that it wouldn’t help me. The reason for that is one of the characters in the movie that I easily related to: Joost from Amsterdam. He’s a friendly, talkative, chubby traveller who starts the trail to lose weight. After 5 minutes you already realize that this guy is never going to lose weight and he’s just living a lie. He’s just there for the adventure. He eats all the local delicacies and stuffs himself with food ‘to have more energy’.  That would be me! He talks to everyone, but can be quite annoying. That could be me too! I’m going to remember Joost more than Tom (the role of Martin Sheen).

The director of this movie is Emilio Estevez (the good son of Martin Sheen). I liked his movie Bobby much more and even though I think this one here has its merits, there just are too many superfluous characters and unnecessary scenesAnd the stereotyping was getting on my nerves after a while. The Dutch guy is smoking weed. The American doesn’t know the difference between Spain and Basque Country. Gypsies are thieves, but have a good heart and know how to sing. Etc…

Still, that Joost guy was funny and real. There’s this one scene in a hotel room that really touched me. Go watch it yourself. It’s an iTunes 99 cent rental!

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