SALT LAKE CITY -- Tom (Martin Sheen), a widowed California ophthalmologist, receives the worst phone call a parent can receive. While on pilgrimage, walking the "El Camino de Santiago de Compstela" (also known as The Way of St. James), Tom's son, Daniel, dies while hiking the trail in inclement weather. Tom, whose relationship with his son has been strained, flies to France to bring the body of his only child home.
The kindly Captain Henri walks Tom through the grueling process of identification and final arrangements. In the process, the captain explains the pilgrimage and mentions that he too has lost a child and has made the walk several times.
While going through his son's belongings, Tom decides to finish the trek on behalf of his boy. What follows is an odyssey of personal discovery and even enlightenment as the father begins to see the trail and, even the world, as his son might have seen it.
Among the many fellow hikers, Tom and three other pilgrims seem to be destined to travel together. First, there's Yorick van Wageningen as Joost, a jovial Dutchman who claims to be making the trek to lose weight. He's the first to notice that Tom is scattering ashes at significant sites along the way.
The movie stumbles occasionally and is guilty of a little self-service, but overall, I was touched by "The Way."
Next is Deborah Kara Unger starring as Sarah, a Canadian trying to get over an abusive relationship and its troubling aftermath. And finally the three are joined by James Nesbitt as Jack, an Irish writer suffering from severe writer's block. Interestingly enough, it seems prying into his friends' stories might just break that block.
Emilio Estevez not only directs but wrote the screenplay. He's the producer and also stars as Daniel. It's obvious from the very beginning that this is more than simply making a movie; this is clearly a labor for Sheen, who describes himself as a devoted Catholic, and Estevez, a self-proclaimed "work in progress." It's refreshing to watch a film that treats spirituality with sensitivity and even respect.
As we're taken along the 800 kilometer path from France to Spain, the movie stumbles occasionally and is guilty of a little self-service here and there; but overall, I was touched by "The Way." Rated PG-13, I'm giving the film 3 stars.
Watch the trailer: