The spiritual pilgrims of Emilio Estevez's The Way

Barb Brouwer

Usually movies that I don’t think my husband would like I reserve for Netflix, but because I had heard the scenery was breathtaking, TheWay was one I wanted to see on the big screen. I was also concerned that this movie would be at the theaters for only a few weeks due to the predictions that it would not attract large numbers of moviegoers. So for our Saturday movie date we headed for a theater still showing the movie. I was not disappointed.

For Christians, “the way” refers to Jesus, who says “I am the way, the truth and the life.” The movie by this same name refers to the way of the Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of Saint James. People journey on this path for all different reasons. For Daniel (Emilio Estevez, who also directs) it was to experience life instead of writing about it in a doctoral dissertation. For his dad Tom (Martin Sheen) it was to find peace after Daniel’s death just one day into his journey. Tom had no intention of walking the way when he flew to France to get his son’s body. But soon the idea of completing what his son had started became a passion, almost an obsession, for him

What Tom wasn’t looking for on this journey was companionship. But three other pilgrims, all looking to fix the brokenness in their lives, soon attach themselves to him. Dutch, Canadian, Irish and American - each had demons that they wanted to quiet. Walking the way gave them time to think, to mourn and to reconcile themselves to the losses they had experienced.

Who gives music to your journey? Do you provide music for someone else's journey?

Tom’s intention was to walk the way alone, without the distraction of other pilgrims. But he found himself “stuck” with these people. I found myself asking, Do I try to walk my way alone? Or can I see the people in my life as companions, walking the way with me, some ahead leading, others alongside encouraging and still others lagging  behind weeping. Eventually this trio gave music to Tom’s journey and played a role in his healing. Who gives music to your journey? Do you provide music for someone else's journey?

As promised, the scenery was stunning, but it is an inside scene that has stayed with me. Toward the end of the journey the pilgrims stop at a cathedral where monks are lighting a big container of incense, which they then raise and cause to move as a pendulum. As it moves, smoke and incense are released into the church. As I watched I thought of the worship of the Israelites in the Temple of Solomon. No, this movie is not an “evangelistic." It is contemplative. It is one where we see the struggle humans have with a God who seems far away and who lets bad things happen. Yet, in this worship experience in a beautiful cathedral on the way, we see broken hearts touched by the possibility of divine love.

Oh, and my husband liked the movie too.

The Way is available Feb. 21 on DVD.

What Do You Think?

  • Have you seen The Way? What was your impression?
  • Have you ever embarked on a pilgrimage in your life?
  • What companions do you have on your faith journey?


Topics: Movies, Culture At Large, Arts & Leisure, Theology & The Church, Faith