I think it's been well-established the types of movies I review here. Usually action-orientated flicks, with high octane scenes, lots of grisly violence, and driven by a central overarching plot that has grounds in other pre-existing continuity, creating the 'cinematic universe' phenomenon. Either that, or a standalone, gritty, realistic movie grounded with political themes and social ideas (such as Joker). So today's review may seem a shock to daily readers (if any existence), as I review The Way, a movie directed and written by Emilio Estevez, and a film I didn't expect to enjoy so much.
The Way's story, at first glance, is a standard Christian movie plot. Thomas Avery, an eye doctor in California, is estranged from his son Daniel after they disagree on how Daniel should live his life. After Daniel embarks on a spiritual pilgrimage to El Camino de Santiago, an ancient Christian church in Spain, he dies on the first day from a rather violent storm. After coming to France to pick up his remains, his father decides to finish the journey in his honor, wanting to avenge his son's memory and find personal peace on the trip. Joining Thomas are three companions. Sarah, a cigarette-addicted millennial with a tragic past, Joost, a Dutchman who deals drugs and is struggling with an obesity problem, and Jack, an Irish novelist battling Writer's Block (I could totally relate, by the way). These characters all ail aspects of Thomas's close-minded personality, as he grows to become a more traveled and sociable human being that learns to love traveling and seeing the world.
There's many points of dialogue in this film which are undoubtedly cheesy. The main characters act like caricatures of the groups or personalities they represent, such as the jolly, eccentric, fat Dutchman, or the self-absorbed, arrogant writer, and finally, the distant millennial addicted to cigarettes. Thought it'd be vape, honestly. Nevertheless, the dialogue remains catchy and interesting. I found myself consistently rooting for these group of slowly becoming friends rather than cringing at their every moment like in most of these feel-good Christian movies. Their actors make even their worst lines a charismatic delivery and makes you invested in their stories, from whether its shallow weight-loss to a tragic abortion backstory. The conflict which is considered the midway point of the movie and eventual turning point is also somewhat believable, despite a few moments that will leave some eyebrows raised. When these characters seemed on the brink of breaking apart due to their conflict with Thomas, I was genuinely saddened and hoping they remained together, which they did.
The journey itself becomes merely a backdrop for the development and union this group of four friends experiences. Each are wildly different personality-wise, so when you see them become united through wild experiences (such as fleeing an insane priest's hostel or trying to capture a child who pilfered Thomas's bag), you always find yourself on their side. I believe this decision was pivotal. Instead of the El Camino itself being showcased, it was rather the titular setting and ultimate goal for these characters, but their own internal paths to discovery and happiness are the true apex of this film. These group of friends are so well-connected at times even through hardship they make you yearn for a similar band of allies to trudge through life with, at least for me.
In fact, the ending is actually a satisfying payoff rather than an awkwardly orchestrated means of shoehorning the obvious message down the watcher's throat. While it's not really subtle, (SPOILER ALERT), Thomas's internal boundaries are finally dissolved, and gaining inspiration from his epic journey on the Camino road, decides to begin a worldwide trip to observe exotic foreign cultures and better himself through a greater tolerance of these places, and a more worldly view rather than a close-minded ideology cultivated through remaining in one place forever. Overall, The Way is probably the best 'Christian' movie out there, though it's not strictly religious, despite the spiritual messages and setting, but rather, a display of how a spiritual journey with the right people could have brilliant consequences and a wonderful learning experience. 9/10.