Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 12A
  • Drama
  • 2010

The Way

The Way

Synopsis

Martin Sheen plays a grieving father who undertakes a pilgrimmage through the Pyrenees originally planned by his son

About

The Way opens on a brilliant blue surfer's paradise of a beach. Azure skies, palm-lined boulevard. Inside an office nearby, wealthy widowed optometrist Tom (Martin Sheen) is administering an eye test to an elderly patient. We're gently immersed in the world of Tom's practice as he receives a message from his errant adult son Daniel (played by Sheen's real life son Emilio Estevez, who also wrote and directed this clearly personal project), who is travelling Europe without a mobile phone. We register the tension in their relationship, see Tom grumble about Daniel's choices. We then witness Tom in his element on the golf course, surrounded by friends cut from similar cloth.

Having carefully yet casually set this unremarkable world up, Estevez gives us one of this long film's most powerful moments - Tom receives a phone call, like lightning from a clear blue sky, informing him of the death of the son he'd been grumbling about until so recently. It captures perfectly the often mundane, utterly unforeshadowed nature of much bad news and succeeds in showing us Tom's shock, where so many films would telegraph this moment.

Unfortunately, this naturalistic approach is abandoned, recaptured, and abandoned again many times over the course of a long film that starts rather interestingly by exploring the incivility and social mores of grief, but then takes a detour into the nature of pilgrimmage, becoming ultimately far too invested in why some people go on epic treks, at the expense of a taut narrative. For it is through attempting the 800k+ trek that his son had just begun at the time of his death that Tom decides to honour his memory. Fine, but this needs to be Tom's film, not a film about pilgrims.

The Way's trump card is Martin Sheen, who gives a performance that is sympathetic but doesn't crave our approval, creating a character who feels completely believeable. The film also does a nice line in solitary sketches - when Martin's backpack falls in a river, we're problem solving alongside him as to how best to get it back, we can feel how cold the water is, the annoyance of having to dry everything he owns.

Where the film falls down is in its attempts to convey the cameraderie of the road via a succession of encounters with other characters, each with their own problems and lessons to learn. This risks creating a giant hugging-and-learning exercise, where we might as well be watching a film about group therapy if they weren't hiking at the same time. That might indeed be the point the film is trying to make, but it seems too close to the characters to say anything more critically objective about this idea.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez
  • Director: Emilio Estevez

In a nutshell

Thoughtful, well-intentioned and with the odd moment of true emotional resonance, but also overlong and with sometimes rather pat revelations.

by Catherine Bray

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    About Elly

    Taraneh Alidoosti stars in a gripping, award-winning mystery-thriller from Oscar-winning Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi.

  • Film4

    Odd Thomas

    Anton Yelchin stars in Stephen Sommers' charged adaptation of Dean Koontz's supernatural novel.

  • Film4

    Action Month 2016 on Film4

    A whole month of action favourites every night at 9.00pm throughout June.

  • Film4

    Kick-Ass 2 on Film4

    Jim Carrey, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloƫ Grace Moretz star in Film4's first play of the darkly comic sequel to Kick-Ass.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Five questions for Jim Gillespie

    We grabbed five minutes with Jim Gillespie after his Edinburgh International Film Festival directing masterclass to put five burning questions to the man behind I Know What You Did Last Summer, whose

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Clio Barnard's Dark River starts shooting

    Principal photography has commenced on Dark River, the third feature film from writer/director Clio Barnard (The Arbor, The Selfish Giant), starring Ruth Wilson (The Affair, Saving Mr Banks), Mark Sta

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share