Not many Hollywood directors or actors use films as a platform to examine their faith. On September 10, however, The Way, directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father Martin Sheen, will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
According to Estevez, The Way is about genuine American spirituality. What started as a brief outline became 40 or 50 pages of script and led Estevez to read as many books as possible about the Camino pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Journalist Jack Hitt's book Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim's Route into Spain captured Estevez's imagination and helped shape the story. By this time, Estevez had a full-fledged project he had never wanted to do.
Martin Sheen plays a 70-year-old American doctor who travels to Spain to claim the body of his son, who died halfway through the famous pilgrimage. The grieving father decides to complete the walk his son began and falls in with an oddball group of companions: an Irishman angry with the church; a cynical Canadian woman looking for some vague redemption; and a Dutchman who just seems lost.
Estevez' characters in The Way are all wondering about meaning in their lives. "None of these characters is in any way perfect. In fact they're all flawed, broken, and not particularly attractive. They're difficult to be around—for each other anyway," he said. "Ultimately, what they discover is that it is a community, a global community, and they are emblematic of that. And we can't do it alone. We can't walk this earth by ourselves. We need community. We need faith. We ultimately need each other."
A father burying his son and then walking for weeks through a foreign country may seem like a pretty grim premise for a movie, but Estevez said he believes he has made a film about American resilience.
"America will bounce back," he said. "Because of our resilience, because of our faith and our hope. I think faith plays an enormous part of it."
The movie's website. Also, the Spanish-language trailer: