Julie is the author of a number of guidebooks, including 'Melbourne's Best Bush Bay and City Walks' & 'Melbourne for Dogs' (with RSPCA). Read more of her adventures at her walks blog: walksmelbourne.com
As a keen walker, there was no doubt I was going to be both a critical and enthusiastic viewer of The Way, written and directed by Emilio Estevez.
I stumbled across the movie by accident in December, when it was playing on a transatlantic flight, and found myself transfixed.
This movie is an inspirational homage to the often testy and disparate relationship between father and son. It tells the story of Tom, a taciturn doctor, (Martin Sheen) who travels to Spain to identify the body of his son, Daniel, a free spirit whom he just does not understand, who dies tragically shortly after setting out to walk El Camino del Santiago (The Pilgrim's Way), which starts in France and traverses Spain from east to west. Almost reluctantly, Sheen is convinced to walk the 800km route on behalf of his son (also played by Estevez, Sheen's actual son, for added poignancy).
The motley cast of characters who accompany the grumpy and grieving Sheen along the way - despite his best efforts - shade in the colours of the story with their own quiet reasons to walk. Quiet that is except for the egotistical and blocked Irish writer, played excessively by comedian, James Nesbitt, who I have to say, I found irritating to the point of turning me off entirely during his scenes.
That being said, that is no reason not to go and see this wonderful movie. There is a great stillness about the movie, in the style of Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, or Sean Penn's Into the Wild, yet it is absolutely compelling. As fans of The West Wing will know, Martin Sheen is a fine actor, and the personal relevance of his Spanish and faith-based heritage make this a special movie for Sheen. The scenery is spectacular, as is the developing pilgrim's camaraderie, and I challenge anyone to see this movie and not want to pack their backpack, turn off their mobile phone, grab a pole and head off for a long walk. The Way is playing in selected cinemas across Australia now, much delayed after its American release last year. It has been a sleeper hit, as an indie movie, without the traditional Hollywood marketing campaign, but has a massive word-of-mouth following. Don''t miss it.