Monday 23 January 2012

The Way

I’m not, and never have been, much of a film buff. I don’t like Blockbusters, Action Movies or vehicles for the Hollywood glitterati – actors, directors or producers. And I’m not particularly fond of the cinema experience, either, where the massive and too-close screen and peculiar sound is quite off-putting.

In all honesty, I’d rather read the book, and if its not available as a book, I’d rather read something else! And, in the majority of cases, even dramatisations of good books are often flawed, being too short and insubstantial, focusing only on the action and lacking the depth and understanding of the original.

So it’s a rare occasion indeed when a film comes along that I’m really keen to see. Browsing the Internet for some post-Christmas bargains, I was please to stumble across the DVD of a film I had managed to miss at the Multiplex on it’s release – Emilio Estevez’s film, “The Way”. It arrived last week and I got a chance to watch it over the weekend. I’m pleased to say it didn’t disappoint!

For those who aren’t aware, this movie tells the story of Tom, a conventional middle class Californian optician, whose drop-out son, Daniel, is killed in an accident in the Pyrenees whilst walking the Camino de Santiago – The Way of St James. Still in shock, Tom travels to France to collect his son’s body, clearly distressed by the situation and his troubled relationship with his son. Stricken by grief, Tom decides to follow in Daniel’s footsteps, to undertake the pilgrimage his son failed to complete and walk The Way. Many personal stories are played out along the route, with Tom learning as much about himself as he does about his son in the process.

Of course the interest to walkers is the setting – The Camino de Santiago, one of the great LDPs of the world. Walked by many pilgrims each and every year for hundreds of years, each and every one of which has their own reasons for doing so.

For me, it’s right up there as one of my “must do” trips, and has probably overtaken a UK end-to-end as my number one choice of really long route. Not because of any need to fulfil such a pilgrimage from a religious point of view, but simply because of the sense of history, personal achievement and spiritual attainment it encapsulates – these tracks have been travelled for a thousand years and have been the setting for many stories, both dramatic and modest.

Whether I get a chance to do it at some point, who knows? And, if I do, can I get a three- or four-month window to tackle the whole journey in one go? Or will I complete it in stages? And will my motivations change along the way? There are a lot of “ifs and buts” to consider, and the likelihood of achieving this goal might appear slim, but there is no harm in dreaming, is there?

I think most walkers harbour an ambition of one sort or another: to complete a certain route or climb a particular hill. One of the genuinely universal appeals of walking is that it allows us to set our own personal goals. And, no matter how grand or modest they might be, there is always something achievable.

This film tells of the journeys – both physical and spiritual – of a small group of people, each with their own story to tell and their own problems to reconcile. But, on a wider point, there is much to consider about the reasons we go for a walk in the first place – why we undertake these journeys for ourselves, no matter how small they may be, and what we get from having made them.

For once, a film not only lived up to my expectations but surpassed them – touching, but life-affirming; melancholy, yet full of joy; beautifully filmed and able to capture the ups and downs of life-on-the-road and amongst the Camino community. It really was a revelation.

See it, if you get a chance, I think you’ll agree.


  1. I was looking into this film only the other day. Nice one. You've sold me