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EMILIO ESTEVEZ DIRECTING FATHER MARTIN SHEEN IN 'THE WAY'

Year: 2010 Rating: ***1/2

For a story about a father taking over the journey of his son, who died on the first day of the El Camino de Santiago… a spiritual-based hiking expedition from France to Spain… it’s not too bad... 

But as an ensemble involving three other hikers joining the trek, THE WAY tries too hard making up for the difficulty of basing an entire movie on a long walking trip. Other than gorgeous exterior locations and peaks into various small towns along the way, what’s there to do? 

Well that’s what characters are for, but other than Martin Sheen as the grieving father, the tagalongs can be annoying: including an opinionated Canadian woman (Deborah Unger from THE GAME, yet noticeably aged) who doesn't try very hard to quit smoking; a babbling Irish travelogue writer aka the token neurotic; and an overweight jovial Dutch guy taking the comic relief mantle... 

The script and direction by Emilio Estevez is hit and miss – while the shots are beautiful (mostly because the location is beautiful) and the quest is heartfelt, some of the dialogue feels contrived: reminding us it's just a movie... And each problematic situation… like Sheen getting his son’s backpack and ashes stolen… are resolved way too easily (or quenched with a breezy feel-good tune). But it's the moments when we stick closely on the face of our protagonist that it seems a worthwhile journey. After all, it’s his story, and knowing his son (in the film) is not only on his mind, but is (in real life) behind the camera: that is, if anything else, what really matters.

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