Friday, October 7, 2011

Movie with Abe: The Way

The Way
Directed by Emilio Estevez
Released October 7, 2011

Emilio Estevez starred in a number of films in the 1980s and 1990s, directing several of them, including “Wisdom,” “Men at Work,” and “The War at Home.” In the past decade, he has maintained a lower profile, directing some television episodes and making select film appearances. In 2006, he wrote and directed “Bobby,” a drama that focused on a number of people present for some reason or another when Robert F. Kennedy was shot. His first film since “Bobby” features a much tighter cast and a far more spiritual journey for one man trying to make a connection with his dead son that he wished he could have made while he was alive.

Estevez tends to cast both himself and his family members in his films, and that’s definitely the case here as well. Estevez takes the role of Daniel, a man who perished at the beginning of a lengthy pilgrimage from France to Spain called El Camino de Santiago, and his real-life father Martin Sheen plays his father Tom. It’s quickly made evident that Daniel and Tom rarely saw eye to eye and had barely kept in touch over recent years. Daniel’s untimely death paves the way for Tom to take a break from his neat, calm life to walk many, many miles on the path his son had planned to take.

“The Way” is a road movie of sorts, though its passengers walk rather than drive, which doesn’t diminish the problems that often arise when it comes to road movies. The places Tom and his companions stop are generally interesting, but the movie tends to lose focus and only jolt back to reality and alertness when it’s time for a pertinent event or conversation to take place. Surprisingly little of the physical hardship of undertaking this laborious journey is indicated, and as a result, it would be hard to confuse this film with the similarly-titled “The Way Back.”

On the road, the people one meets are always the most intriguing part of the journey. Tom’s energy isn’t high, and he isn’t terribly friendly for the first two-thirds of the film. Tom is no Jed Bartlett, and Sheen isn’t putting nearly as much effort into his performance as Tom is into making his trip. Among Tom’s more memorable and lively encounters and companions are Yorick van Wageningen’s boisterous and talkative Joost and James Nesbitt’s writer’s block-afflicted Irishman Jack. Deborah Kara Unger’s Sarah is supposed to be the female heart of the film, but she’s less interesting than the film wants her to be. Ultimately, what’s most compelling is the “way” itself, and it prompts a certain curiosity about this path that the film doesn’t do all that much to fulfill. It’s a fine and pleasant experience, but hardly the powerful and motivational success it should be.


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