October 11, 2011

The Way-Museum of the Moving Image


Erica: We saw this in a preview screening at the beautiful newly remodeled Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria Queens. We decided on paying the extra few dollars to see it a night early because Estevez and Sheen were in attendance (and there were no annoying moviegoers texting and not paying attention during the film) I think Mike covers everything that needs to be said about this movie so lets start the family affair.

Mike: I'd been interested in the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) for a while. The Camino - a 500 mile pilgrimage through France and Spain made by Christians, challenge seekers, hiking enthusiasts and other people who don't have to be at the office for six weeks - was something I'd read about that really struck me, so to hear that Emilio Estevez was making a film that used it as a backdrop was something to look forward to. So my interest in the subject matter was definitely there. Added to that, I've been rooting for Estevez for years. I always thought he was a talented, charismatic actor and while it was a shame to see him disappear from the screen in the last fifteen years, I respected his shift to directing. Of the films he did, I don't remember Wisdom well enough to know whether it was any good (it sure entertained me at the time, and the fact that he was only like 20 or 21 is remarkable), and the only thing I remember about Men At Work is that even at age ten I knew it was pretty dumb. But I thought The War At Home, Rated X and Bobby were all excellent. With Bobby he worked on a grander scale and not all of it worked for me, but it was clear that Estevez was really dedicated to the film's subject. The same goes for his latest film.

So anyway - going into the film I had two prejudices: I liked the camino and I liked Estevez. It's no surprise that I really, really liked The Way. For starters, it's great to see Martin Sheen on the big screen again in a starring role. He gets his share of juicy parts, but he's been relegated to character actor status. I never watched The West Wing, so to me his return to the forefront here reaffirms his ability to carry a picture. His three supporting players are interesting and provide comic relief but it's Sheen's show.

What really makes The Way such a pleasant moviegoing experience is its ability to capture so much of the camino. Not just its beauty, which Estevez and his cinematographer take full advantage of, and the countless shots of people walking through pretty landscapes never get old. And not just its spirituality - Catholic or not, people have different reasons for making the journey, and the only thing the film tries to convince us of is its impact on its four main characters. But most of all, the film gives a start-to-finish, almost day-to-day account of what it's like to make the trek. The camraderie of strangers, the sore feet, the bunk bed hostels, the food, the stamp collecting, the people encountered along the way, etc... It's like an abridged guidebook, and I'm sure that the Spanish bureau of tourism is very happy with Sheen and Estevez right now.

I could have done without some of the music choices and Sheen's co-stars could have been either contained or fleshed out a bit more effectively, but The Way is Estevez's best film yet and one of my favorites of the year.

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