Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Way (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Way

Finally, high five! A road movie of self- discovery for men. An "Eat Pray Love" for the macho among us. That is what you'll find in "The Way" capably  directed by 80s star, Emilio Estevez.
Emilo's real life father, Martin Sheen stars as Tom, a congenial but direct opthamologist who enjoys the static regularity of his suburban life. But something is eating at him. His bohemian son Daniel  (Emilio Estevez) is off in Europe with no set return. On the golf course, Tom gets a disturbing call from a Pyrenees policeman telling him that his son has died in a freak accident during a storm.

Sheen's grief is palpable. From the first moment, his mouth folds in sadness and we are hooked. We learn in flashbacks that although Tom clearly loved his son, he was silent and taciturn in conversation, adamant against his son's eternal wandering.
A key scene is Tom's arrival at the morgue as he goes to collect Daniel's body. Sheen is tense, flushed and we need not see him cry. One close-up says it all.
Needless to say, Tom has an epiphany. He will complete The  Way of Saint James, as his son hoped to do reaching The Camino de Santiago with his son's ashes in hand Tom adapts the manner of a Baby Boomer pilgrim, echoing the deliberate open eyed manner of Julia Roberts' voyager role. But to be fair, Sheen has such an earnest and plain energy that he makes the role his own. We can forgive a bit of imitation with the middle-aged professional, displaced in a foreign land. Our heart goes out to him.

What follows is a picaresque journey of characters that Tom meets along his trek, each one a bit more quirky than the last. There is Jost,  ( Yorick van Wageningen) a kind and jovial hedonist from Amsterdam, Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger) a sexy but disturbed iconoclast from Canada, and Jack, (James Nesbitt), a hyperactive Irishman with writer's block, who bounces about like a Shakespearean sprite laced with amphetamines. That is not to say that these people are cartoons. Their roles are played with feeling and verve, it's only that they  seem a bit contrived, given that there have been countless quest films that have made similar paths with nearly identical  "I'm sorrys", and "I know you don't want to talk to mes".
I'll admit that I knew what was coming when Tom was at a lunch party only to insult his fellow pilgrims,  lunging at the police, swinging his arms and raving. Whoa! Dude! No way, another Sheen on the loose! This one's a Tiger-Dad. It seems like every journey film has a hero in hysterics and I wonder why. It's really not necessary. Pathos and high drama can also be shown in silence.
Despite the melodramatic spiritual feel at times with the repetitive imagery of statues, censers and Icons overlaid with Enya-like sounds,  Sheen keeps us walking with him by the simple force of his portrayal. Whenever Tom is jubilant, enervated by fatigue, tortured by memory or happenstance, we feel it. The sight of Sheen's own son as Daniel in the form of a memory-ghost along his walk, gives the film an authentic and poignant validity.
Although you might be able to see one foot fall in front of the other before it  actually does, "The Way" has enough eccentricity in its characters and a pleasing quaintness in its colorful locale of Basque Country that it still makes for an entertaining jaunt, if not an  odyssey.   

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