The AtHome Pilgrim

Musings at a Slower Pace


Philly area, Pennsylvania, USA
"Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita," I find myself still asking some of the same questions I did when I was just a punk kid. The Big Things confuse me. Fortunately, though, many little things delight and amuse me, and some Big Things--my wife, our kids, our bird and bunny visitors, food, baseball--make me very, very happy. In my pilgrimage, I try to be guided by the wisdom of dear old Auntie Mame: "Life is a banquet!"


AtHomePilgrim's Links

Outside Sites
Things Historical
Things Natural
Things Philosophical
Things Baseball
MARCH 26, 2012 8:18AM

Finding The Way (movie review)

Rate: 12 Flag

In The Way (2010), Thomas Avery (Martin Sheen), a successful Southern California ophthalmologist, satisfied with the ordered life he has chosen, finds himself on an unexpected trek. Avery is a decent man—a doctor who will come to the office at eight in the morning to accommodate a patient’s schedule—but one who, a friend joshes, has no soul. 

Soon after that telling jibe, Avery’s world explodes when he receives a phone call informing him that his son has died in an accident near St. Jean Pied de Port, France, at the beginning of the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James), the centuries-old pilgrimage route to the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela, Spain.  Flying to France to bring home his son’s body, Avery impulsively decides to have his son’s remains cremated and to carry the ashes on the Pilgrimage.  

Intent on being alone so he can sort through his thoughts, his grief,  and his regrets over his troubled relationship with his deceased son, Avery nevertheless gains one, then two, then three traveling companions. Joost (Yorick van Wageningen)—a smiling, hungry-for-life Dutchman who doubles as a mobile drug repository—is intent on losing weight. Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), an edgy, bitterly sarcastic Canadian, insists that she walks the Camino so she can finally quit smoking. Jack (James Nesbitt), an Irish travel writer who burns to be a novelist, has undertaken the trip to crash through writer’s block. Avery tries to shake the trio, especially when Joost reveals to the others his own painful reason for walking the Way, but they persist. 

The four actors wear their characters as easily as a comfortable pair of walking shoes and play off each other effectively. The doctor’s determined strides and equally determined gaze keep the others at a distance—for a time. Eventually, he warms to them. Eventually, Avery warms to life. 

Written, directed, and produced by Emilio Estevez, who appears in cameos as Avery’s deceased son Daniel, The Way is a moving exploration of the restlessness of the spirit; the deep desire to expiate long-harbored tormenting guilt; and the ability to forge bonds when opening your soul to the pain that others, like you, carry inside.  

The film was inspired in part by Jack Hitt’s travel book Off the Road, which recounts his own adventures as a modern walker of the Camino, but Estevez does much more than study the odd characters that make the trek and the myriad motivations that compel people to do so—or that convince them to serve, or exploit, those who make the journey.  

Aided by the cinematography of Juan Miguel Azpiroz, which captures the rugged beauty of northern Spain and its ancient but still vibrant human geography, The Way is an eloquent tale of an odyssey both ancient and very contemporary, reminding that inside each of us is (dare I say it?) a pilgrim seeking greater meaning than that provided by our pedestrian lives.  

One of Daniel’s few lines, spoken in a flashback, resonates long after the closing credits. “You don’t choose a life, dad. You live one.”  


The Way is available as a DVD or instantly from, Netflix, and on-demand cable systems. 


Originally published in slightly different form at The AtHome Pilgrim's author page, at    


Words © 2012 AtHome Pilgrim. 

All Rights Reserved.

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
This sounds good! I could watch Martin Sheen read a cereal box.
It may be too soon for me to watch this one but I will be marking this page to netflix it this summer. It sounds like a movie to be watched in my dark room with the door closed and the cooler running. Thanks for sharing...
Just reading it makes me want to cry. I'm not sure if I could watch it.
I loved this movie so much. Great review. It was a quiet little movie but so absorbing in its intimacy and honesty. R
This sort of nepotism by a director is understandable ... actually encouraged.
Thanks for this! I hadn't heard of the movie, and those themes really resonate with me. I'll check it out.
Now for sure I want to see this movie. Thanks.
AHPilgrim sitting in Elwy Yost's chair. I love it.
Must see. I've not been to Spain, but heard about that beautiful landscape. Sounds like my kind of movie, thank you.
It is interesting, the movie has some inaccuracies, stereotypes and one egregious moment that I found quite disturbing, when I saw those gypsies dancing around in the middle of a plaza in dowtown Burgos!!!!!, please. But .... I really liked the movie. I enjoyed watching those interactions between the characters and observing the way our Scrooge changes over the course of the movie. I went to the premiere in DC with Sheen and Stevez themselves answering questions after the movie. This movie really came from their heart. I loved how father and son interacted and showed admiration for each other. This movie is close to them as it tells part of a story that is set on the place their family is from, Spain and Galicia. I will be there soon as well. Meu lar.
Thanks, Pilgrim. (How appropriate, in this case!) Martin Sheen is always worth watching, although I'm sure I'll keep wondering where Toby Ziegler, Josh et al are, and why they're letting President Bartlett walk the Way all by himself! I wish movies that sound ing as interesting as this one got made more often...
heron: Let me know what you think.

Lady: And with a box of tissues handy.

ILL: It's not searing. More of a guidance. But, you know, it's up to you.

Rita B: Quiet, yes. And lasting. Like the countryside and the hushed cathedral.

Stim: I suspect Emilio figured it would get farther with father in it. Which is fine.

Karen: Hope you like. Report back!

John: Ditto!

Scarlett: Bill Kennedy was my guy. Don't know if he was before your time ('60s) or out of your range (CKLW in Windsor). But he was my guy.

Kim: The landscape is stunning. Let me know if you want to be bored by pictures. ;) And I do think the movie worthwhile.

gallego: I mean, espanol: I dunno. I know some people who got accosted by gypsies in quite public areas of Cordoba and Granada in the full light of day, and the party here was at night! Anyway, thanks for the heads up on this one!

Shiral: Well, the avatar is Santiago! I think there are plenty of movies as interesting as this one being made. It's just that few people talk about them. Hence my desire to do so on this one.
I'm admiring the perfection of your use of "pedestrian." The walk is the way.
This is in our Netflix cue, so I thank you for the review. I'll stock up on kleenex.