Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Way (Emilio Estevez, 2011) -- C+

Luxury plays a significant role in The Way, director Emilio Estevez's sixth (who knew?) feature film, yet it's something the writer/director neglects to adequately address, opting instead for a more conventional, literal tale of Tom (Martin Sheen), a grieving father , who upon learning about the death of his son Daniel (Emilio Estevez), decides to travel the El Camino de Santiago by foot, a trek his son attempted to make before being killed on the journey. The scenario is trailer-made (see for yourself here), verging on Hallmark-stamped levels of easy irony and unearned pathos. Moreover, the literal journey leads to obvious metaphorical ends (there's symbolism in nearly every scene), as do Tom's inevitable encounters with a host of characters, namely Joost (Yorick van Wageningen), Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), and Jack (James Nesbitt), all of whom have afflictions of their own; Joost is in a bad marriage and overweight; Sarah flees an abusive relationship; Jack suffers from writer's block. Ho-hum to say the least, especially in the utterly lackadaisical presentation. And yet - these very simplicities ultimately (and surprisingly) turn into charmingly small insights, anchored mainly by Sheen's impassioned performance and Estevez's decision to shoot nearly every scene from Sheen's perspective, a tact that imbues a degree of subjective strife (if indulgent) detached from class divide. Much like Sean Penn's Into the Wild, Estevez is too in love with the independent spirit to critique it; in doing so, he valorizes impudence, championing a will that's afforded only by privilege, not dedication. Estevez's film isn't as nearly self-absorbed as Penn's, but The Way can never quite manufacture a reason for its existence, given the often trite, recycled notions of family, faith, grief, and retribution.

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