I couldn’t agree with Richard Leonard more.

The Way.


The Way

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The Way. Starring Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Yorick van Wageningen, Deborah Kara Unger, James Nesbitt. Written and directed by Emilio Estevez. 123 minutes. Rated PG (Mild themes, drug use and coarse language).

Ever since Tom’s (Martin Sheen) wife died, his relationship with his only child Daniel (Emilio Estevez) has been fraught. In dealing with his grief, Daniel takes flight, from his doctoral studies, from his father and from the USA.  Under the guise of being a cultural anthropologist on field studies, David tries running away from himself and his pain.

Daniel finds his way to the Pyrenees where he begins the medieval pilgrimage, now called The Camino (The Way). Ill prepared, he dies from exposure in the early days of his pilgrimage. Tom leaves his practice as an ophthalmologist in California and goes to claim his son’s body at St. Jean Pied de Port, France. On arrival he discovers what Daniel was doing, and Tom decides to complete the pilgrimage as a way establishing a connection with his dead son. “Our children are the very best and the very worst of us.”

It is very rare for me to say that I think every Catholic secondary school student should see a film, but The Way is it. And I know that almost every person of faith will find here a genuinely faith-filled experience.

The insightful tag line of the film comes from Daniel’s challenge to his father as he takes flight from home, “You don’t choose a life, Dad. You live one.” And an even more telling line comes later, “The Camino is all about confronting death.”  Every journey to self and religious revelation involves death in all its varieties.

TS Elliot’s famous poem The Journey of the Magi, those original Christian pilgrims, understood this well:

“… were we lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.”