Santa Cruz Good Times

Apr 16th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Walk This Way

film_thewayySpiritual trek becomes journey of self-discovery in 'The Way'

It's not just any old way. The title of Emilio Estevez's wistful road movie of self-discovery, The Way, refers to what has become the way for centuries of pilgrims—"El camino de Santiago," the way of St. James, the route across northern Spain to the cathedral of Santiago de la Compostela in Galicia. Writer-director Estevez launches a mismatched group of modern pilgrims along this sacred site, for a variety of reasons, none of them particularly religious. But for each character, the journey takes on a spiritual aspect in the human quest for connection and meaning in life.

It may sound touchy-feely, or just plain corny, and there are moments of both in the film. And yet the movie engages, not only as a glorious travelogue of ancient villages and folkways far off the beaten track (it was shot on location in France and Spain), but in the ways the characters make little discoveries about themselves and each other as they travel along. It also may have viewers itching to follow the route, just to see who they might discover within when they leave their familiar selves behind.

It would be hard to imagine a less likely pilgrim than Tom Avery (Martin Sheen), widoweder and Los Angeles ophthalmologist whose calm, comfortable life is devoted to giving his patients eye exams and playing golf with a bunch of other doctor-duffers. Until he gets the phone call every parent dreads: that his only son, Daniel, has been killed in a freak storm in the French Pyrenees while embarking on the camino de Santiago.

Tom and Daniel were not estranged, they just had different worldviews; Daniel had a wanderlust to experience life outside his own hermetically sealed existence. (In flashback, when Tom defends "the life I chose," Daniel sighs, "You don't choose a life, Dad. You live one.") During these flashbacks, and other moments when Tom is haunted by memories of his son, Estevez himself—who is Sheen's real-life son—appears as Daniel.

In France to claim his son's body, Tom also receives all of Daniel's backpacking equipment and maps. The local police captain (Tchéky Karyo), who has walked the camino many times, explains its historical, cultural and religious significance, 800 kilometers through the Pyrenees and across the Spanish countryside to the northwest coast of Spain. As an act of solidarity with the son he feels he never knew well enough, Tom has the body cremated and sets out with the ashes in a little tin box to complete the walk to Santiago de la Compostela for—and with—his son.

Tom keeps his emotions tightly lidded as well, even from himself, so it's only with the most grudging tolerance that he allows himself to be befriended by other walkers along the way. Joost (Yorick van Wageningen) is a portly, jovial Dutchman and walking pharmacy, trying to drop a few pounds. Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger) is a waspish Canadian blonde out to exorcise her private demons (although the motivation for her secret sorrow feels sketchy and unconvincing). "Jack from Ireland" (the great James Nesbitt, although he's encouraged to play to the balcony a few too many times, here) is a blocked travel writer searching for the inspiration to start the novel he's always wanted to write.

Gradually, these characters begin to break through each other's defenses. Sometimes, Estevez resorts to clichés, like the scene when someone gets smashed and lambastes all the others' shortcomings, or the twinkly Catholic priest among the pilgrims, dispensing worldly advice (and spare rosaries). But Estevez makes some interesting choices too, as the characters reveal themselves—like the amusing montage of spontaneous reactions (surprising even to themselves) when the characters are getting their passports stamped at the Santiago Cathedral, and each is asked why he or she has made the journey.film_theway

Meanwhile we get to tag along from earthy Basque inns to picturesque B&Bs, from bare-bones hostels to monasteries, across stone bridges and through medieval villages unchanged for centuries. The characters' various epiphanies at the Cathedral are open to many interpretations, depending on the viewer's degree of personal faith, but ultimately it's the inner trek that counts in Estevez's adventurous film.


★★★ (out of four) Watch film trailer >>>

With Martin Sheen, Deborah Kara Unger, and James Nesbitt. Written and directed by Emilio Estevez. An Arc Entertainment release. Rated PG-13. 121 minutes.

Comments (1)Add Comment
written by Fan, October 21, 2011
Thanks for the great review - but where's it playing? GT says check out our movie times page http://www.goodtimessantacruz....vents.html

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Aries Solar Festival

Sunday is Palm Sunday. Symbolizing victory and triumph, paradise, sacrifice and martyrdom, the Pisces World Teacher entered Jerusalem (City of Peace) on a donkey (signifying humility).


Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.


Animal Magnetism

Bear, mouse dare to be friends in charming ‘Ernest and Celestine’ It’s not exactly Romeo and Juliet. It’s not even a romance, although it is a love story about two individuals separated by prejudice who find the courage to form an unshakable bond despite the rules and traditions that keep them apart.


Printer's Devil

Iconic editor Buz Bezore, who died last month at the age of 68, left a huge mark on Santa Cruz journalism   Eventually, it’s all a blur. You live long enough, and maybe a little too hard at times, so that when you hit the rewind button of faded memory, it moves so fast that you can hardly sort and gather the details. One scene skips to the next, and to the next, without proper editing or sequencing. Chronologies get distorted. Which came first: stealing the chickens or coloring the eggs?
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

Latest Comments


Foodie File: Yan Flower

Yan Belleville has owned Yan Flower, an affordable Chinese restaurant in Downtown Santa Cruz, with her husband Raymond for eight years, and it’s a family affair. Her brother, sister, sister-in-law, and cousins work there too. Locals know the joint for its massive lunch specials starting at $4.


How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management


Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX


Comanche Cellars

Pinot Noir 2010 I first tasted Comanche Cellars Pinot when a friend brought a bottle to share over lunch at Center Street Grill in Santa Cruz. Upon trying it, I knew I had to find out more about it.