It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
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.
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