Skip to content

The Way: Director: Emilio Estevez

March 6, 2016

TW 4In an updating of the O’ level RS syllabus, Compostella became one of the places of pilgrimage to be studied. I didn’t know much about it and had to do some mugging up before people started including it in textbooks and schools’ broadcasts. It still interests me years later and I often wonder what it would be like to walk The Camino. (A reviewer for CrossWalk said: Filmed entirely on location in France and Spain, the scenery in The Way is so gorgeous it may inspire viewers to walk the Camino de Santiago themselves)

Tradition says that the last few steps of the Santiago pilgrimage should be made on one’s knees. “The Way” delicately acknowledges that there are things in our world worth kneeling to; and that no matter who we are or where we came from, each of us wants to end our journey on our knees.

Tom is an American doctor who goes to France following the death of his adult son, killed in the Pyrenees during a storm while walking The Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of St. James. Tom’s purpose is initially to retrieve his son’s body. However, in a combination of grief and homage to his son, Tom decides to journey on this path of pilgrims. While walking The Camino, Tom meets others from around the world (three in particular), all broken and looking for greater meaning in their lives.

“Kids are posting on Facebook saying, “I’ve never heard of this before. Thank you for making the film. I’m going to Santiago. I’m taking my parents to the movie. I finally found a movie that I can take my parents to that is not vulgar, that’s not so CGI-driven or about outer space, that they can relate to'”, Estevez happily reports in a recent interview with CBN.com.

The Way is a very personal project, born out of an impromptu driving trip Martin Sheen took with his grandson Taylor on the Camino de Santiago, a thousand year old walking trail in the north of Spain. There, Taylor (Emilio’s son) met the girl of his dreams, his now wife.

Inspired by the trail, The West Wing star enlisted the writing talent of his son to make a movie with the Camino as the backdrop. Estevez initially resisted the idea, but was later convinced a moving story could be told. He started with his main character – Tom, a backslidden Catholic who treks the Camino after his son accidentally dies walking the trail during a violent storm.

“In many ways, I lost my son [Taylor] in the Camino, not tragically, but I lost him to Spain,” says Estevez.

With the church leadership against allowing the shoot, Estevez took a leap of faith and asked his Hollywood seasoned cast and crew to do something a little unconventional.

“He made the demand as the director to all of the crew to begin praying, lighting candles to lift the embargo against us,” Sheen recalls. “And it worked, [just] 48 hours before we got there.”

Producer David Alexanian also noticed how even the weather cooperated with their filming schedule despite reports that they should expect to fight with rain every day of their 40-day shoot on the trail. To the cast and crews amazement, only two days were wash outs and both were days scheduled for indoor filming.

“Regardless of your religion, you had to believe that there was something working in our favor,” Alexanian says.

“These are gifts. Accept them and accept the cup as offered…,” Estevez says chiming in as he remembered the miracles that happened on set. “Every day was in our favor. It was Providence.”

Faith is realized in dramatic way on screen as well, through each character’s reaction as they enter the grand cathedral.

“What’s interesting is that Tom’s a lapsed Catholic, and the other three are really non-believers. But over the course of the journey, there is conversion for all of them,” Estevez explains. “Jack [the novelist] says churches are temples of tears; and he’s referring to the conflicts in Northern Ireland. The church has a lot to answer for. And, in fact, he gets to Santiago, and “temples of tears”; takes on a whole new meaning. It brings him to his knees.”

“Joost [the fat Dutchman] is literally brought to his knees and humbled before God,” he recalls. That was “one of those moments when we were shooting it, we thought, ‘Oh, we don’t know if this will work’. But it ends up being one of the more powerful moments in the whole film.”

The pilgrimage each trekker makes is one that leads to deep realizations and for some a spiritual awakening. This has been the history of this trail, which coincidentally ends in Sheen’s father’s hometown of Galicia, Spain.

“I think all of us are on pilgrimage whether we’re conscious of it or not. We’re trying to find our true selves. I like to phrase it as it’s an honest effort to unite the will of the spirit with the work of the flesh. That’s pilgrimage. And when we’re balanced in that regard, then we’re able to share our brokenness, our joys, every part of what it means to be human, and share it with community, with family.

TW 3“You must walk alone,” he continued. “You cannot do the pilgrimage without walking. All of us have to carry our cross, if you will. All of us have our own personal journey. … But you cannot do it without community. It’s a dichotomy. We’re never, ever, ever alone.”

Not many movies coming out of Hollywood these days are ones you can take your elderly parents and high school kids to see. That’s what’s so unique about The Way, a new movie about grief, family, and faith set on the Camino de Santiago, and starring Martin Sheen, from director/writer/producer Emilio Estevez. The father and son team have been touring the country by bus lately sharing their project with anyone willing to listen. And the responses are encouraging.

“Kids are posting on Facebook saying, “I’ve never heard of this before. Thank you for making the film. I’m going to Santiago. I’m taking my parents to the movie. I finally found a movie that I can take my parents to that is not vulgar, that’s not so CGI-driven or about outer space, that they can relate to'”, Estevez happily reports in a recent interview with CBN.com.

Interested in producing good, old-fashioned storytelling, Estevez and Sheen, along with co-producer David Alexanian, want people to find The Way in theaters this weekend.

“This is the way the old studios used to do it,” Estevez says. “And these are the types of films that they used to make that were about people.”

“I think that people will be delighted to have [The Way] as a tool … and as an alternative to what’s out there,” adds Sheen.

The Way is a very personal project, born out of an impromptu driving trip Martin Sheen took with his grandson Taylor on the Camino de Santiago, a thousand year old walking trail in the north of Spain. There, Taylor (Emilio’s son) met the girl of his dreams, his now wife.

Inspired by the trail, The West Wing star enlisted the writing talent of his son to make a movie with the Camino as the backdrop. Estevez initially resisted the idea, but was later convinced a moving story could be told. He started with his main character – Tom, a backslidden Catholic who treks the Camino after his son accidentally dies walking the trail during a violent storm.

“In many ways, I lost my son [Taylor] in the Camino, not tragically, but I lost him to Spain,” says Estevez.

From there, the actor turned screenwriter/director penned Tom’s story, one reminiscent of Dorothy’s journey in The Wizard of Oz. He’s a “stranger in a strange land”, explains Estevez. “He finds himself in Spain alone; and he wants to be alone. Unlike Dorothy who invites the other three to come along, Tom doesn’t want to have anything to do with them. They invite themselves; and isn’t it true that sometimes people come into our lives who we don’t want to have anything to do with, ultimately teach us the greatest lessons. So the idea was through these three individuals, Tom would become a father to them in many ways that he was never able to be a father to Daniel.”

Actor Deborah Kara Unger (Crash), Yorick van Wageningen (The New World), and James Nesbitt (Waking Ned Devine) fill the supporting roles as the three pilgrims – Sarah, Joost, and Jack – who tag along with Tom as walks the Camino.

“[Sarah] was broken, fragmented, and self-flagellating, if you will. So, when we meet her, she’s got a hole in her heart, and she is our Tin Man,” Estevez says. “We meet the Cowardly Lion in Joost in that he’s big, and lovable. And when [Tom] says, ‘What are you, all five?’ He says, ‘No, I’m just scared’. Then, Jack, of course, is our Scarecrow, suffering from writers block, not having a brain.”

The complexities of each character aren’t fully realized until they reach their end. With each step they take together, we see their a bit more of their flaws and motivations for pilgrimage. The lessons learned are many, but, according to Estevez, the message is clear.

“The theme is that it’s OK to be exactly who you are, that God loves you no matter how broken, no matter how imperfect you are,” he says.

As an agnostic (according to an interview with heraldscotland.com), Estevez does not hold the same faith as his father, who is a practicing Catholic. But, he does acknowledge the divine favor during the 40-day filming of The Way. A key scene in the film almost didn’t happen. It wasn’t until 48 hours before they were set to shoot inside the cathedral that they were finally given the permission to do so.

“No room at the inn, they said,” recalls Estevez with a smile.

“They only allow documentaries, and occasional newsreel footage, but never let anyone in there with a script. They didn’t know whether we were going to denigrate it or uphold the sacredness of it,” says Sheen.

“It was right on their part to think that we were just yet another bunch of cynical Americanos who were going to disrespect the church,” Estevez says. “It didn’t matter about [Dad’s] faith. It didn’t matter what the movie was about. They said, ‘No entrance. We can’t have this’. And they also didn’t want to set a precedent.”

With the church leadership against allowing the shoot, Estevez took a leap of faith and asked his Hollywood seasoned cast and crew to do something a little unconventional.

“He made the demand as the director to all of the crew to begin praying, lighting candles to lift the embargo against us,” Sheen recalls. “And it worked, [just] 48 hours before we got there.”

Producer David Alexanian also noticed how even the weather cooperated with their filming schedule despite reports that they should expect to fight with rain every day of their 40-day shoot on the trail. To the cast and crews amazement, only two days were wash outs and both were days scheduled for indoor filming.

“Regardless of your religion, you had to believe that there was something working in our favor,” Alexanian says.

“These are gifts. Accept them and accept the cup as offered…,” Estevez says chiming in as he remembered the miracles that happened on set. “Every day was in our favor. It was Providence.”

Faith is realized in dramatic way on screen as well, through each character’s reaction as they enter the grand cathedral.

“What’s interesting is that Tom’s a lapsed Catholic, and the other three are really non-believers. But over the course of the journey, there is conversion for all of them,” Estevez explains. “Jack [the novelist] says churches are temples of tears; and he’s referring to the conflicts in Northern Ireland. The church has a lot to answer for. And, in fact, he gets to Santiago, and “temples of tears”; takes on a whole new meaning. It brings him to his knees.”

“Joost [the fat Dutchman] is literally brought to his knees and humbled before God,” he recalls. That was “one of those moments when we were shooting it, we thought, ‘Oh, we don’t know if this will work’. But it ends up being one of the more powerful moments in the whole film.”

The pilgrimage each trekker makes is one that leads to deep realizations and for some a spiritual awakening. This has been the history of this trail, which coincidentally ends in Sheen’s father’s hometown of Galicia, Spain.

TW 2“In the old days, those cathedrals were built so that they could be seen from many, many miles away. The pilgrims would see them, and it would inspire them to keep going because it was like an image of Heaven,” Sheen says. “They would stay for long periods once they got there. So it’s not just a passing thing; it was life-changing.”

“Each step is a prayer when you’re out there. You generally start out with a lot of stuff because you want to be prepared for whatever happens. As you go, you begin to have confidence and you begin to realize you over packed, and you begin to disperse all the stuff,” Sheen says. “The real pilgrimage begins on the inside, and you begin to let go of all the things you’ve been holding on to in the dungeon of your heart. You begin to let that one go that you couldn’t forgive. You begin to stop being judgmental, and envious, and angry, and selfish, and resentful, and all the dark parts of our spirit begin to be released.”

Destinations keep us determined to persevere, but it’s what we learn on the journey that matters. The Way speaks volumes to this and the effect reflection about life, community, and God can have on a life.

“People are beginning to focus on, well, what is really important,” he says. “Families are starting to come together, starting to eat together. They’re not on the run all the time. There’s nowhere to run now. They’re forced to relate to one another; and they’re finding value in things that they’d overlooked because of this mass media and the hustle and bustle and anxiety of modern life. It’s taken its toll. And maybe there’s something going on, spiritually, that we had not anticipated. God works in very, very mysterious ways. Maybe something’s going on that is going to cause a rising in people that is going to be grace-filled for all of us.” http://www1.cbn.com/movies/emilio-estevez-and-martin-sheen-faith-the-way

Along The Way, Tom discovers the meaning of one of the last things his son said (in a flashback) to his father. There is a difference between “the life we live and the life we choose.” Emilio Estevez’s independently produced film, The Way, is on the surface a story of bereavement and mourning. It tells the story of Tom Avery, a settled, conservative, and irascible ophthalmologist from Ventura, California, who travels reluctantly to St-Jean-Pied­de-Port in the French Pyrenees to repatriate the body of his only son. Daniel died in a mountain accident on the first day of walking the Camino, the pilgrimage route which leads through the Pyrenees across northern Spain to the shrine of St James in Santiago de Compostela. Tom and Daniel were estranged; the father’s compla­cency and the son’s fecklessness equally to blame. The power of the relationship, which is related through flash-back, and present visions, is strengthened by the casting: Estevez plays Daniel, his real-life father, Martin Sheen, plays Tom. The quality of the acting, script and direction manages to show, movingly, parental grief without succumbing to cloying sentimentality.

At first Tom’s only intention is to retrieve his son’s body and meagre possessions, and to return to California as soon as he can. However, on a whim, unexplainable to anyone, but especially to himself, he decides to take his son’s ashes on the pilgrimage, and to walk the 500 miles to Santiago. He is an unprepared pilgrim. As the film’s press kit says: Tom is ‘reluctant, uncertain, skeptical, a bit broken and yet, for all his fierce independence, most definitely in need of sustenance from others on his way through’.

Tom is shown to be comfortable in the company of his golfing companions in California, but following his son’s death he knows, full well, that there is nothing to be gained from the company of others (‘Do you think [Tom] would want to talk to me about it?’. ‘I think he’d sooner shove that walking stick down your throat’.) And yet, despite himself, he picks up companions: Joost (Yorick Van Wageningen), the ‘fat Dutchman’ who is walking to lose weight; Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger) from Canada who only wants to quit cigarettes; Jack (James Nesbitt), a writer from Northern Ireland who is struggling with writer’s block – Estevez has admitted the conscious allusion to Dorothy and her three companions in The Wizard of Oz.

Tom knew what he would experience before he set off, and none of it would be worthwhile: ‘we’re all just taking a really long walk, I suppose’. His only aspiration is to walk the Camino, gradually divesting himself of his son’s ashes. Tom knows that experience of walking the Camino, and the peregrinos he meets, will have nothing that he needs. As Sarah puts it, in exasperation at the speed and business-like nature of Tom’s walking, ‘Doesn’t this guy ever stop to smell the flowers? This isn’t a race! So why does it piss me off so much that I haven’t seen him stop to take a break? Why does something which should be inspirational make me so… angry?’.

And yet, as Estevez wrote the part and Sheen played it, the key to understanding Tom is the ‘chipping away slowly and subtly at the thick slabs of armor [he] has built around himself, as a father and as a man, over the years’. As Sheen says, ‘over time, [Tom] begins to see that he’s going to have to learn to rely on others ­and more than that, he’s going to have to let them know that they can rely on him’.

TWTom does not set out to find followers. In fact, he does everything he can to avoid ‘tag-a-longs’. Even so, the palpable determination he has to reach Santiago conveys itself to people who encounter him, who are each of them, as lost and hurting as he is, even though he is unable to admit it. The kernel of his dispute with his son echoes as a refrain through the film: ‘My life might not seem like much to you, but it’s the life I choose’. ‘You don’t choose your life, Dad. You live one’. At the end of the film, Tom has realized this truth, through his journey to Santiago, and, more importantly. through the recognition of his connection with humanity, repre­sented by Joost, Sarah and Jack.

You are the Messiah and I should know: Why Leadership is a Myth (and probably a Heresy) – Justin Lewis-Anthony p. 281f https://layreadersbookreviews.wordpress.com/2016/03/06/you-are-the-messiah-and-i-should-know-why-leadership-is-a-myth-and-probably-a-heresy-justin-lewis-anthony/

Tom (Martin Sheen) places bits of his son’s ashes at various places on El Camino to signify that his son is making the journey with him. Though touching, this goes against Catholic teaching – cremation is allowed, but all of a person’s ashes are to be kept together, in one place. Scattering or dividing the ashes is officially not allowed.

Daniel: You don’t choose a life, dad. You live one.

Tom: I’m sorry about your baby.

Sarah: I’m sorry about yours.

Tom: Mine was almost 40.

Sarah: Yeah, but he’ll always be your baby.

 

Joost: I tried to quit once. But then I thought, “Why?” My grandmother, she drank and she smoked her entire life, and she lived to be 103 years old. Now what does that tell you?

Sarah: It tells me that everyone who is trying to quit something always has an ancient relative they use as an example of why not to quit.

Joost: I suppose that make me into a cliché, then.

Sarah: You said it.

Joost: [Tom & Joost walk into town, Tom passing Sarah, seated, & Joost stops to introduce himself] Hi. I’m Joost, from Amsterdam

Sarah: Dutch, eh? Got any drugs?

Joost: [shouts ahead to Tom] I love this woman!

Tom: It wears off quickly, I promise you

Joost: [to Sarah] What are you looking for?

Sarah: Something to help me sleep. I’ve been having trouble, the last few weeks

Joost: I have some Ambien… or perhaps you’d prefer something stronger?

Sarah: [shouts ahead to Tom] I love this man!

Tom: It wears off quickly, I promise you

 

Sarah: Doesn’t this guy ever stop to smell the flowers?

 

Joost: What, you can do this on a bike? Why the hell are we walking? Oh that’s ridiculous man.

 

Joost: I bought same liquor. Orujo. It’s from Galicia. It’s made of eighteen different herbs, and so secret that has to be squeezed by blind monks.

 

Joost: Would you like to try some of this? [offering Jack, who has complained of writer’s block, a hand-roll of marijuana, tobacco, hashish, or some combination thereof] It’s Turkish; I hear it’s good for writer’s block.

 

Joost: I needed a new suit anyway.

 

Tom: [Having been handed the box with his son’s ashes] I’m going to walk the Camino de Santiago.

Captain Henri: [Somewhat taken aback] Mr. Avery, if you’ll pardon me, please, you are not prepared to go on this trip. You have no equipment, or…

Tom: [Cutting him off] I’ve got Danny’s back pack and all of his stuff.

Captain Henri: But you haven’t trained for this walk, and no disrespect, you are more than 60 years old.

Tom: [shrugs] So it’ll take me a bit longer than most.

Captain Henri: You’ll be lucky if you finish in two months.

Tom: Well, then I’d better get started. We’re leaving in the morning.

Captain Henri: [Looking a bit confused] “We”?

Tom: [Holding up the box with his son’s ashes] Both of us.

 

TW 5Tom: Have you ever walked the Camino, senora?

First albergue innkeeper: Never. When I was young, I was too busy. And now that I’m older, I’m too tired. [as Tom silently nods and heads out the door] Buen camino.

 

Sarah: [while chain smoking another cigarette] The end of the Camino is the end of my addiction.

Tom: Spoken like a true addict.

 

Padre Frank: Hey, I’m Frank. New York.

Tom: Tom. California.

Tom: [Noticing that Frank is wearing a yarmulke] Nice to meet you, Rabbi.

Padre Frank: Oh, actually I’m a priest.

Tom: Well, you can understand my confusion.

Padre Frank: Yeah, a lot of people make that mistake. [Pointing to his head] Brain cancer. Surgery left a terrible scar. I wear this yarmulke to cover it up. They didn’t get it all… you know, the cancer. Said it’ll probably come back. Who knows about these kinda’ things? Only God… Anyway, they say that miracles happen out here on the Camino de Santiago.

Tom: You believe in miracles, Father?

Padre Frank: I’m a priest. It’s kinda’ my job.

 

Tom: I’m going to walk the Camino de Santiago.

 

Sarah: Well, Jack, maybe a dog fight near a cheese farm is simply a dog fight near a cheese farm.

Jack: [Excitedly] AH! Okay… That’s good. That… is very… good! Maybe I should adopt a more conservative attitude instead of trying to tickle meaning out of every curve in the road. Oh, Christ… I haven’t had an original thought in months! Writer’s block…

 

Tom: [Receives news of his son] Daniel? What happened to Daniel?

 

Sarah: Everything alright?

return to the home page

Advertisements

From → Film, Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: