Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Review of Emilio Estevez' The Way...

My pilgrim daughter, Rebecca, and I went to see the film in Malaga last year. I was expecting to be disappointed. But I wasn't.

First of all, it is balanced. There is acknowledgment of the religious aspects of the Camino, but also the idea of the Way as the destination, as Tom spreads his son's ashes at various waymarks along the path, but also decides - having had a conversation with a helpful gypsy in Burgos - to take the path beyond Compostela to Muxía to scatter the remainder of the ashes in the sea on the rocks in front of La Virgen de la Barca. Having visited Muxía myself this year I was delighted that they chose this place rather than the more commercialised Finisterre.

Secondly, it is powerful. The notion of a Tom who changes gradually from someone who sought to impose his own values and lifestyle on his adventurous son follows the idea that no matter who your are or what you believe in, the Camino WILL change you in one way or the other, as Tom does, "seeing" his son along the Camino and even visualising him pulling the ropes of the Botefumeiro with great satisfaction in the Cathedral.

Finally, it is funny. The scene where the four are practicing baton-twirling with their bordones had me laughing out loud. In fact, the dialogue free part of the movie as they move across the Mesa was my favourite. It helped to encapsulate what happens when individuals with nothing whatsoever in common, come together in commonm circumstances.

I didn't particularly like two of the characters and in this Rebecca and I were in agreement: Sarah the Canadian is much too brash and intrusive from the outset (and who wears skin tight jeans on the Camino?), but perhaps she had to be hard in order to mellow through the journey, as she seems to do. There was nheed to flesh out the character but perhaps little time. The Irish writer selfishly only wants to take the lives of others in order to break out of his writer's block and it is hard to warm to him at any time although even Tom accepts him for what he is later in the movie.
Tom, however is brilliantly portrayed by Martin Sheen whose facial expressions leave extensive dialogue unnecessary. A true award winning performance.

Purists will complain about the non-Latin Compostela and the fact that the replacement was given so easily (can't tell any more though...). No we don't go up the steps and through the Great Door: I believe only the King does that! Both Rebecca and I as long term residents of Spain were offended by the unpleasant "Madame Debril"-type character who has never walked the Camino and who informs Tom that he is in Basque country - Navarra in this case - and not Spain. This was a gratuitous, misleading and unncecessary throw away by Estevez and I could hear people bristle around me here in the cinema in Andalucia. It's a touchy subject. More Catalunians think themselves "not Spanish" than Navarese, or even those from Pais Vasco. Also police are not likely to throw enebriated and noisy pilgrims in the drunk tank (God knows they'd never get any real work done else!).

On a positive note - and there are many - "El Ramon" from Jack Hitt's wonderful book Off the Road was a great little vignette as were others taken from that favourite Camino book of mine (though not where the bird drops from the sky, alas). Read it for yourself; it is still the best.

I am looking forward to the DVD and the chance to see it in English. Certainly it can only have a positive effect on those who are feeling the Camino draw them closer. It's gently done, perhaps too gentle for a general audience, but it has a lasting effect and made me want to get my boots out (yet) again.
More soon on my recent adventures in Galicia and the birth of the Little Fox.

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