(directed by Emilio Estevez, 2011)
***+ (out of 5)
> Emilio Estevez does his family proud with this fine examination of grief and loss and the blessings of life, in the shadow of death.
. A widower travels to Europe to retrieve the remains of his only son, who died while visiting. Once there, he discovers that his son was on a religious pilgrimage people have been making for hundreds of years. To honor his memory, he makes a snap decision to make the trek in his son’s stead. The director scored big-time when he convinced his father, the always fine Martin Sheen, to sign on to the project. In flashbacks and visions, Emilio himself plays the departed son, and father and son sure seem to enjoy working together. Well adapted from a book, Mr. Estevez has crafted a fairly lean and evocative script, populating the story with secondary characters we believe in and care about. Casting mostly unfamiliar faces among the pilgrim’s sidekicks felt like a wise move. I had no associations with any of them (except familiar Irish character actor James Nesbitt playing the preciously too-glib Irishman,) and this made the characters feel somehow more real.
. This film is a spiritual journey of its own and it is oh-so beautiful to watch, because Mr. Estevez had the wherewithal to hire an excellent cinematographer, who painted the European countryside in sun-dappled vistas, rendered with rich, luscious colors that make you just want to dive in to the screen.
. This film has such heart it just makes you want to give Emilio a big thank-you hug for the gift of THE WAY.
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