Monday, November 26, 2012

"The Way"

The story of "The Way" is simple - Martin Sheen plays a well-to-do doctor (ophthalmologist) who, while on the golf course one day, receives a call from overseas that his nearly estranged son (played by his real son, Emilio Estevez) has died, while attempting to make the pilgrimage on the El camino del Santiago - The Way of St. James.  When he travels to France to retrieve the remains, he decides - somewhat on a whim, so it would seem - to have the remains cremated, and to make the pilgrimage himself, spreading his son's ashes along the way.  And along the way, he meets a number of interesting characters, three who join him - a fat and sometimes jolly Dutchman, a Canadian woman who is wound so tight that you expect her to implode at any moment, and a talkative Irish writer who...well, can't stop talking.  Naturally, they all have their stories, and their reasons for making the trek.

While directed by Estevez, the movie clearly belongs to Sheen.  You could argue that he's simply channeling Josiah Bartlet, but there's little doubt in my mind that the movie's emotional impact - and there are quite a few moments that grab you and tighten the throat - is due solely to his presence as an actor, and his ability to raise even the most potentially trite moments to something that is emotional, affecting, and entirely believable.  Even at those moments when you're saying to yourself that what you're seeing on the screen is too good to be true, that moments like that don't happen in real life, Sheen is there to bring things back to Earth.

It's not a great film, but it's certainly an earnest one, and well worth watching.

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