Bottom Line: Now playing at Theater Insomnia…
Directed by: Emilio Estevez
Tom Avery: Martin Sheen
Also Starring: Deborah Kara Unger, Emilio Estevez, James Nesbitt, Yorick van Wageningen
“If it’s bad, I’ll hate it. If it’s good, then I’ll be envious and hate it even more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer.” –Corey Stoll (Ernest Hemingway) in Midnight in Paris
Between the late 1980s through the early 21st century, the film industry saw an arising movement known as the “indie” genre. The term is used to describe the popularization of films made by amateurs, marked by the independent breakthroughs of filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs), Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing), and Christopher Nolan (Following). Apart from its wholesomeness, The Way is sparsely an anomaly to this movement. Names such as Martin Sheen and his son Emilio Estevez are far from difficult to recognize, but when Emilio is director, producer, writer, AND actor, it becomes an amateurish leap of faith. Films like this are the stuff for which I fall head over heels. Usually. I love it when a revered actor or actress takes an underdog stab behind the camera. Usually. And I wanted to enjoy The Way. I’ll be no less than honest in saying that I did at some level, but if I wake up tomorrow morning and I’ve already forgotten about it, I wouldn’t be all that surprised.
The Way takes a brave “hike” through its quiet, somber mood. Reticence is a risky task, indeed. When done correctly, you get a work of art (Lost in Translation). When done incorrectly, you get a ten-dollar sleeping pill (Monsieur Lazhar). Starting up, the film seems as if it could very well be a spectacle to behold. The premise isn’t something we usually get. Is it? An aging man (Martin Sheen) is partaking in a 500-mile pilgrimage through Europe, but when his son dies, it becomes a journey to move on. I’ll give the drama points for standing atypical and, for the first twenty minutes, moving. But the rest of the film relies on that fraying thread to carry the entire burden. I’m not sure I’d care for a repeating display of a man trekking several countries, depressed and lonely, as his bystanders stare at him like a bored foreigner. Maybe if I were an insomniac.
There are a few bright spots in this drama. Our central character’s depression is handled in an amusingly quirky light, allowing room for the occasional spurt of humor. The film also ends with a message, if you can stay fully awake by the time it’s redeemed in the end. The cinematography is well captured as well–gloomy when our hero feels such, bright while he hikes. Kudos to the crew in charge of “dollying” the camera backward for half the film. I’d assume that’d be just as exhausting as a cross-country hike. For lack of a better word, The Way is uneventful. If The North Face devised plans for a two-hour advertisement, this would be the semi-engaging result.