(PG) Limited release
TOM (Martin Sheen), an LA ophthalmologist, hears the worst of all possible news: his son Daniel has died while walking on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostella.
Tom flies to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the French Pyrenees, where he is met by a kindly policeman (touchingly played by Tcheky Karyo) and then decides to complete Daniel's walk on The Way (as it is known).
Based in part on the best-selling Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim's Route into Spain, by journalist Jack Hitt, The Way is clearly of great personal significance to Sheen and his son, writer-director Emilio Estevez (who also plays Daniel in flashbacks). One often wonders how Sheen felt as he played many of the scenes, especially the one at the morgue that is holding Daniel.
En route to Compostella, Tom meets many people - the road gets very crowded at times - but he doesn't want to converse with anyone. However, circumstances ensure he is rarely alone, trapped, as it were, in an extended and unwelcome group-therapy session. Everyone is on The Way for a reason and it may not be what they first admit to. Each is quietly looking for a form of regeneration, be it religious, familial or creative.
The film is picaresque and visually attractive, gentle and sweet, with a confident pulse of Catholicism in its veins.
If it never quite delivers the emotional punch one hopes for, the film nonetheless stays pleasantly in the mind.