Plot: What’s it about?
Tom (Martin Sheen) has just learned of his son’s death, a tragic event that shakes his life. He ventures to France in order to claim his son’s body, but decides not to return home right away. His son was in the area to walk the pilgrimage known as The Way of St. James, a long journey through France and Spain. As he tries to cope with the loss of his son, Tom embarks on the same path his son walked, to finish what was started. After all, what better way to pay tribute to his son, than to walk this historic pilgrimage that he was unable to complete. As Tom continues down the road, he meets several other travelers and soon finds himself in the company of some good new friends. The road has led him to new people, new places, and new experiences, all of which seem to be helping him grieve and come to grips with his loss. As he travels, he learns about himself, his son, and life in general, but how deeply will this incredible journey truly impact Tom’s life?
We’ve all heard the old phrase “the journey is more important the destination,” but in The Way, we’re shown how true that can be in life. The film was obviously a very personal project, written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father, Martin Sheen in the lead role. The premise is simple, but powerful and allows the focus to remain on the writing and the performances. So if you need explosions or slapstick humor to keep you interested, The Way isn’t going to win you over. The pace is slow and deliberate, which allows the characters to develop and be explored. As good as the idea sounds, I wasn’t all that taken with this movie. I can appreciate the performances, which are rock solid, but the writing never lives up to the potential of the premise. What should be deep emotions are rushed, and the experience is more melodramatic than I’d like.
While I found the writing to be overly simplistic, kind of like a two hour bumper sticker, the performances were quite good. Martin Sheen makes the most of the material, with a strong effort that really stands out. But his authentic approach seems kind of out of place with the writing, which has a more hollow feel. Even so, his performance is one of The Way’s bright points and his presence is sure to attract attention for the production. The supporting cast is good as well, especially in the ensemble scenes where chemistry was quite good. The Way wants to be a deep, inspirational experience, but it falls short. I was reminded more of self help guru type advice, as opposed to meaningful, insightful observations. But the performances do shine despite the material’s flaws, so for fans of Martin Sheen, it is worth a rental.
Video: How does it look?
The Way is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen. This transfer looks more than solid, but doesn’t jump off the screen. This is due in large part to the film stock used, so more of a source limitation issue. Given the film’s on location shoot, the natural views should have been beautiful, but come off as rather bland here. The colors look good and black levels are consistent, but the detail just isn’t close to where it should be. I haven’t seen the DVD to compare, but if I hadn’t been the one to put the disc, I might have mistaken this for a DVD in numerous scenes.
Audio: How does it sound?
The audio is reserved, which seems to work fine for the material. The focus is on dialogue, so vocals are front and center, with no errors to mention. I did expect some ambient presence at times, but the track is not active at all in that regard. The surrounds do come to life for the musical score, but that is the extent of it. But since the movie is so fueled by vocals and little else, there isn’t much to complain about. This disc also includes a stereo soundtrack, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Sheen and Estevez provide audio comments, joined by producer David Alexian. The track confirms how personal the project was, as well as the challenges in shooting on location. The passion comes through, but it is a shame the final vision didn’t match the enthusiasm heard here. This disc also includes several behind the scenes featurettes, about the history of the pilgrimage, the shoot, and the inspiration for the project.