Last year, Zach Galifianakis went to the Grand Canyon in Due Date to scatter his dad’s ashes from a coffee can.
This year it’s Martin Sheen’s turn to distribute the remains of a loved one, his widowed optometrist Tom journeying to Spain to pick up what’s left of his son and sprinkle it along the length of the 880km pilgrimage route he was planning to hike at the time of his untimely death.
That Sheen’s own son, Emilio Estevez, not only directs but also portrays the departed in flashbacks and dream sequences makes this a more personal project for The West Wing lead than, say, Beverly Hills Brats. Add in nods to the actor’s Spanish heritage and devout Catholicism and you have a bona fide labour of love.
Self-indulgent? Sure. But The Way does offer itself up to a broad audience via its combination of eye-catching scenery and gentle humour.
Then there are the colourful companions Tom reluctantly teams up with en route – overweight Dutchman Joost (Yorick Van Wageningen), damaged Canadian Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger) and blocked Irish writer Jack (James Nesbitt). Be warned, though: you may grow as weary of these chancers as Tom eventually does.
So it’s something of a relief that, even at 70, Sheen remains a commanding presence who holds our attention throughout every stage of his seemingly endless trek.
Saying more with a glance than the garrulous Nesbitt can convey with a soliloquy, the Badlands man provides a conviction and charisma that makes up for the deficiencies in Estevez’s script and the inevitable tedium that results from what is, as one character admits, “just a really long walk”.
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First The Way Back, now The Way: since when did walking become a spectator sport? Give Mr Sheen his due though – he invests a long journey with heart and sole.