TORONTO DISPATCH: Out for a Very Long Walk

OKCMOA Film Curator Brian Hearn is at the Toronto International Film Festival, and will be posting some of his thoughts on what he’s seeing. Here’s his second report:

For my generation (X that is), Emilio Estevez will forever be associated with his acting roles in THE OUTSIDERS, THE BREAKFAST CLUB, ST. ELMO’S FIRE and REPO MAN. We’ll forgive him the rest; errr…THE MIGHTY DUCKS!? Anyway, then he turns up a few years back with a pretty decent film that he wrote and directed, BOBBY. Yesterday I saw the world premiere of his new film THE WAY starring who else, his dad. Why wouldn’t you cast Martin Sheen? In this very personal story Martin plays a golfing California eye doctor who gets a call that his rebellious adult son (Emilio of course) has died on the first day of his long distance hike on the famed Camino de Santiago or Way of St. James. This ancient pilgrimage route winds hundreds of miles from the French Pyrenees to the northwest coast of Spain ending at the Santiago de Compstela Cathedral and has been undertaken by millions of people primarily for religious/spiritual reasons. Sheen’s character didn’t understand his son’s desire to walk the Camino, he was more into using a golf cart. Wracked with grief and guilt he makes the impulsive and nutty decision to complete his son’s journey for him using the gear he left behind. With a silver box containing his son’s ashes he sets out sternly and stubbornly adapting to the rituals of The Way. He soon encounters the three characters that make the movie much richer: Joost, a fat, gregarious Dutchman from Amsterdam who wants to lose weight but can’t resist food, wine and smoking big spliffs; Sarah, an angry, attractive chain smoker who wants to quit her habit, and Jack, a slighty mad Irish travel writer who’s lost his mojo and is trying to get it back. Along the trail they get to know each other but Sheen’s character is taciturn and silent about his reasons for the walk. He deposits handfuls of his son’s remains at the many pilgrimage stops. The soundtrack of their long journey included some obvious and not so tunes by James Taylor, The Shins, Coldplay, David Gray and Alanis Morrisette. Despite the long running time over 2 hours, the film didn’t drag much with many humorous and dramatic episodes to break up the constant walking. I found the film to be rather predictable at times but overall it was saved by the acting, gorgeous cinematography and some genuinely touching moments. I enjoyed seeing Emilio and Martin at the Q&A afterward. They are both classy gents. Makes you wonder what happened to Charlie, oh that’s what a black sheep is! A couple of interesting notes: the film received a standing “O” which is first I’ve observed at TIFF and it is being distributed internationally by Mel Gibson’s Icon Entertainment. That crazy Catholic connection…


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