Christian Living


The Way: Movie Review

Star Rating

Movie Info


Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements, drug use and smoking.


Drama and Action/Adventure


Oct. 7, 2011 (Limited)


Martin Sheen, Deborah Kara Unger, James Nesbitt, Yorick van Wageningen, Emilio Estevez


Emilio Estevez


Arc Entertainment

More on this movie at IMDb.com

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Martin Sheen, most known for his work on The West Wing, and his real-life son Emilio Estevez (The Breakfast Club, The Mighty Ducks) put their hearts and souls into their latest collaborative movie project - The Way. In the film, the father and son team take us on an epic journey set on the famous Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. And in most ways, the duo can call this one a success.

The Way sees Sheen in the lead role as Tom, an American doctor, who travels to France to identify the body of his son, Daniel, who died while walking on the Camino. Estevez occupies the supporting role as Daniel, but also put his time into writing, producing and directing the film.

Focused on pure storytelling, The Way comes across as genuine, heartfelt, and inspiring – calling on audiences to start living rather than letting life just happen.


Every parent’s worst nightmare comes in the form of a phone call to Tom. On the other line a stranger, a French police captain, reports that Daniel, Tom’s son, is dead. While walking The Way of Saint James, Daniel accidentally died during a fierce storm in the Pyrenees. Honoring his son’s commitment to walk the path, Tom embarks on the historical, 500-plus kilometer pilgrimage himself instead of returning home to California. Soon, Tom learns he will not be walking alone as he meets pilgrims on the Camino. Three in particular, an agnostic Dutchman, a moody Canadian, and a boisterous Irish writer, become his trail mates. The unlikely quartet bond together as they discover the lessons each learns along “The Way”.


Centered on the Camino de Santiago, The Way hones in on Catholic traditions and thought. For a film set on one of the most spiritual trails in the world, The Way doesn’t say Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth and the life”. What it does is it looks at family - the troubled relationship between a father and son, and how grief and love met with determination compels a man in his 70s to trek hundreds of miles to fulfill his son’s dream. The Way also examines how much we need community, how unbelief limits us, and the transformation we can experience in the presence of God. Tom and friends have their individual reasons for walking, but the profound impact each experiences goes beyond what they even thought could happen.

Though the story has similarities with The Wizard of Oz, the script has an authentic feel to it. The complex characters push the narrative along. They pull you in and engage, and that in is part to the performances given by Sheen, Unger, Nesbitt, and van Wageningen. Sheen embodies the self-centeredness and despair of Tom well. It’s an emotional journey for his character, and the others, which puts you in an introspective frame of mind. This is a refreshing change of pace given the mindless summer popcorn movies that have dominated recently.

At two hours, The Way isn’t bum-numbingly long. However, it does drag a bit. The movie’s momentum is slow to start, but picks up as Martin Sheen’s character meets colorful characters on the path. The film's most meaningful moments are seen in the grand cathedral at the end of the trail and at the God-created setting where Tom finally lays Daniel to rest.

Rated PG-13 mainly for a scene showing the Dutchman smoking cannabis, The Way is definitely not something for the kids. Also, please note that even though foul language isn’t listed as a reason for the PG-13 rating, it is present in the film.


The conversation-starter nature of The Way and its propensity to look to faith and community as good, life-changing elements of society make it one to consider seeing at the theater. Young and old alike will walk away reflecting about life and God. Seniors in high school will be inspired to begin life with purpose and our senior citizens not to give up on living each day with passion.

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