The Way

Watched a video this evening which really blew my socks off! The Way, starring Martin Sheen, is about a father searching for his son, who has died at the beginning of his pilgrimage to El Camino de Santiago. El Camino, The Way, is an ancient pilgrimage through the French and Spanish Pyrenees Mountains. Often known in English as The Way of St James, church tradition maintains that St James (one of the twelve disciples of Jesus) is buried in Santiago de Compostela.

People take the pilgrimage for many reasons. In medieval times it was usually for religious reasons, to honour the memory of St James. Today people do it for personal reasons, for physical reasons, spiritual, psychological, recreational, and so on. The scenery is stunning, people are gracious along the way; it is fun to watch travellers on The Way and the many experiences they have.

In the movie, Thomas Avery, an orthodontist from California, receives word that his son has died on this trek. He goes to retrieve his son’s remains from France, and while there decides to walk The Way himself, in honour and memory of Daniel. As happens to many who undertake such a pilgrimage, he goes through many changes, within himself, and in his life. He meets others on the road, and gradually a group of four fall into the pattern of travelling together, slowly learning to know each other, despite the solitary nature of each of them and their reasons for undertaking The Way.

The movie, such a departure from typical Hollywood fare, shows the gradual healing process experienced by Thomas and his fellow travellers. Without going over the top, it shows each of them as very average, common people, with all their foibles, fears, secrets and goals. It really does a great job of telling this story, simply, and with a good sense of place and pace. It makes me want to walk El Camino myself!