A Film to Inspire: “The Way”

(The Scallop Shell I wore during my walk on “The Way”)

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was going to see The Way, a film about Tom (a middle aged Opthamologist played by Martin Sheen) whose son dies in the Pyrenees Mountains of France on his first day out of hiking The Camino.

For those of you who don’t know, The Camino, or The Way of Saint James (shortened in the film and by many pilgrims to just “The Way”) is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was an important ancient Christian pilgrims’ route from Saint Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago, Spain where the remains of Saint James the Apostle are said to be interred.  The main route is approximately 800 kilometers or 500 miles.  Thousands walk the route each year for religious, cultural and health reasons.  I walked a portion of the Camino a few years back and loved every minute, despite the fact that it was, at times, grueling. Walking in Europe is so different than walking here in North America. There are villages, towns and cities all along the route.  You can always find somewhere to have a good cup of coffee, good food (almost always accompanied by a glass of red wine) and a place to sleep.  The route is marked by a scallop shell and pilgrims usually carry a shell tied to their backpacks.  The locals, who have seen this trek go past their doors for hundreds of years, have become accustomed to helping lost pilgrims find their way.

Anyways, back to the film.  I was totally enthralled with The Way from the moment it began right up to the credits.  It’s one of those films that won’t ever be a blockbuster, but is, in my humble opinion, a quit and important film.  It may be one of the experiences this year that makes you look at the world a little differently.

When out on the golf course with his buddies, Tom gets a call about his son who has apparently died on just his first day of walking The Camino.  Tom arrives in Saint Jean Pied de Port, France to bring his dead son home.  Flashbacks of their last time together are a window into a sometimes painful relationship. While he has had little patience with his son’s wandering lifestyle, Tom decides to finish his son’s pilgrimage and to spread his ashes along the way.  Tom’s decision is a bit of a surprise  given that he’s a lapsed Catholic and the journey would be of little religious significance.  But, the rightness of his decision is soon confirmed  when he has a visions of his son near where he died.  The visions continue as Tom walks. During the first part of the journey, Tom is terribly angry.  At himself.  At his son.  At the world. He meets up with various pilgrims, each with their own issues to resolve; a Dutchman who needs to lose weight but is obsessed with food, a Canadian divorcee with a razor sharp tongue who smokes like fiend and hides from a past that haunts her, and an annoying Irish writer suffering – he says – from writer’s block.  Along the way, Tom learns how precious his son was to him and perhaps more importantly, he learns how important it is to connect with those around him. There is humor, sadness joy, laughter, and shared pain.  The cinematography is as stunning as the landscapes.  There is little in the way of action.  It simply isn’t that sort of film.  What starts out as a pilgrimage for his son, ends up being one that Tom himself needs to make.  For many pilgrims who walk it, the Camino is life-changing.  It is for Tom.  It was for me, and I suspect it is for most who walk it. The Way may provide you the nudge to inspire your own walk, a wake-up call that life is precious and not to be wasted, or it may just be a pleasant way to spend an evening.

You can check out the official trailer here…

I strongly suspect that The Way is one of those niche movies that will go to a DVD format soon, so if you want to see it, get out there now.  It simply won’t be able to compete with the Xmas movies that will soon be inundating us.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Laura Langston
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 14:58:46

    You’re very lucky to have done the walk. It’s high on my list of things I most want to do. And I agree, the movie was absolutely wonderful.


  2. dolores trifari keene
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 14:40:51

    Natalie and I saw this movie and it was very good. Did you personally walk it?
    That is awesome,
    love, Dodie


  3. Adrienne
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 09:40:58

    Thanks for this, Sheryl. I will watch for it!


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