Just finished watching a movie that my son has been encouraging me to view for the past few months. “It’s your kind of movie, Mom,” insisted my 25 year old cynic, who pretends not to be spiritual, but secretly, I think he is. So, we sprawled in the living room, and traveled The Camino with Martin Sheen and a motley crew of pilgrims who were on the path for various reasons. A brilliant directing job by Emilio Estevez, The Way was inspired by the family’s Spanish heritage. It tells the story of widowed California opthomologist Tom Avery whose 39 year old son Daniel (played by Estevez) dies in the Pyrenees Mountains while making the trek himself; embarking on the pilgrimage as a way of being in the world. A conversation between the father and son takes place in the car prior to his departure. Looking like mirror images of each other, the elder says “This is the life I’ve chosen.” (indicating that somehow his son thought his life was boring), to which Daniel sagely replies “You don’t choose your life, you live it.” This becomes a theme that weaves its way through the film. Inititally, the character of Tom hurries through the 800 km trail, intending to place his son’s ashes at the foot of the statue of St. James in the Cathedral de Santiago and return to his ‘normal life’. Along the way, he encounters others. Some are just occasional passersby, others he sees from time to time. Three remain with him; each with their own quirks that push his buttons mightily. He keeps his feelings repressed; chances are, his M.O. in his life back home, until one day in an uncharacteristic drunken state, he tells them what he thinks of them…the pot smoking, drug dealing Dutch bon vivant, who says he there to lose weight, but indulges in an eating fest at every stop, the verbose Irish travel writer who wants to be an author who collects stories of other pilgrims, and the chain smoking Canadian woman whose anger sticks out all over her, like a prickly pear cactus until we find out what’s behind it. Once the ice is broken, they form a bond that carries them through their weeks together. One thought I had was that these characters were like Dorothy’s companions in The Wizard of Oz and that Cathedral de Santiago was indeed The Emerald City. It also became apparent that although each carried his or her own literal backpack with ‘necessary’ items for safety and comfort, having others with them, in a sense, ‘lightened the load’ so it didn’t feel quite so heavy and burdensome. It was a certainty that the longer they were on the trail, the stronger they became, and yet, had less emotional baggage to tote around.
Not your typical road trip film, to be sure. The character of Tom begins to peel off the layers of pain and shares it with his fellow travelers, allowing them behind the protective walls. Throughout the journey, Daniel shows up in various places, as if accompanying Tom in ways beyond the cremains he carries in a silver box (scattering them at various stops along the way) bound to his son’s backback that he claimed after identifying the body in the morgue. Tom learns to slow down, laugh and truly live his life. It is a land-voyage of discovering who he is as a man, a father, and a spiritual being. The Way is one on which we all must walk, whether or not we carry a backpack and trek from France to Spain. It is an experience of this lifetime, with no shortcuts, but one complete with twists and turns, testing of our faith and endurance. Ultimately it takes us Home. “Buon Camino.”
http://youtu.be/HtAovpHDZqc Walking The Camino De Santiago, Spain With Original Song “Pilgrim Road” by Bobby Roche