Martin Sheen, Traveling in his Son’s Footsteps in The Way


The Way might lack the Chicken Soup for the Soul imprimatur, but writer/director Emilio Estevez’s travelogue tale of fathers and sons (starring his own dad, Martin Sheen) trades in a kindred brand of warm, soothing uplift that viewers might read as insight into the Sheen family saga; we did not. When his free-spirit son Daniel (Estevez) dies while making the pilgrimage on foot from France to Spain’s Santiago de Compostela, grumpy ophthalmologist Tom (Sheen) sets out to better understand himself and his deceased child by taking the journey himself, along the way begrudgingly collecting companions: an overweight Dutchman (Yorick van Wageningen), an Irish author (James Nesbitt), and a chain-smoking Canadian (Deborah Kara Unger). Cue heartfelt healing through bickering, drunken misadventures, and run-ins with colorful locals (including a kook carrying on both sides of a male-female conversation), all of it dully scored to plucky guitar and Adult FM songs by (among others) Alanis Morissette and Nick Drake. The script is blunt, stuffing functional exposition regarding character, history, and tourist sights (as well as cultural stereotypes) into its protagonists’ mouths. As a director, Estevez exhibits a bland visual sense, but he does manage to convey some of his scenic locations’ multifaceted textures. Mostly, though, his dramatically inert, spiritually generic The Way seems like it was far more fun to shoot than it is to endure.