Movie Review: The Way – Does it Really Show What it is Like to Walk a Camino?

Silhouette of a bull against a cloudy blue sky in Spain
Only in Spain…

It took a particularly wet and miserable Autumn day to keep me inside. As a rule I love rainy days as they happen so rarely in Australia and it was the perfect excuse to dust off my well-loved copy of the movie, The Way.

I put my hand up and admit that this is possibly my sixth or seventh viewing of The Way so obviously I am a bit of a fan. It never fails to create a sense of wanderlust and the urge to walk out my back door and just keep going.

But, how accurate is it? Does it really portray the highs and lows of walking the Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain? Or is it all glossed over with a thick layer of Hollywood schmaltz?

What is The Way About?
Martin Sheen contemplates the death of his son walking the camino Frances
Tom contemplates the death of his son walking the Camino Frances. Source: pinterest.com

The Way follows the story of the tense relationship between Tom Avery and his son, Daniel. Tom has followed a traditional professional path as an ophthalmologist, while Daniel hankers to get out and study the World as a real live anthropologist rather than continue with his academic research.

Daniel sets out to walk the Camino de Santiago, specifically the Camino Frances and is killed on the first day as he climbed the Pyrenees. Tom duly arrives in St Jean Pied de Port to take Daniel’s body back to California, but instead, decides to walk the camino in honour of his son.

The movie is purely about Tom’s experience on the Camino and how it impacts his life. I won’t give away too much more of the storyline so you can discover it yourself.

The Accurate
  • The cast of The Way walk the cobbled streets of a village in Spain
    Tom’s camino family. Source: indiewire.com

    The movie accurately captures the depth and breadth of camaraderie that blossoms on the Camino. A diverse group of people come together, all carrying their own physical and emotional baggage, but united by the goal of walking all the way to Santiago de Compostela. The human connections and friendships are a real feature of this film.

  • The glorious Spanish countryside is featured in all its Autumn glory. The story is set in October/November, most fields are harvested and the colours are golden. I have walked two Autumn caminos (including the Camino Frances) and the film evokes the freshness of our early morning starts.
  • The variety of paths, surfaces, and terrain is also fairly accurate although they have glossed over some of the lung-busting climbs and sticky mud.
  • An Autumn camino in Spain - walking the Camino Frances with wind turbines in the backgroud
    Our Autumn camino in September 2013

    I laughed at the albergue scenes. Albergues are the simple hostels where pilgrims can stay for as little as €5-10 per night. All those ‘melodic’ nocturnal noises of 50 people sleeping (or trying to) in the same room. Ahh, the memories. We may travel from all over the World to walk a camino, but snoring is an international language!

  • It also features a decadent stay at the Paradore in Leon. It was lovely to see the inside of a Paradore as it is unlikely I will ever be able to afford to stay in one! I can keep dreaming.
  • I smiled at the conversation and introductions, “Hello, I’m Jack from Ireland”, “Hello, I’m Joost from Amsterdam”. That is so accurate. Your name and your country/city is all that you need on a camino. All barriers and pretences are gone.
The Less-Than-Accurate
  • The cast of The Way walk the cobbled streets of a village in Spain
    Source: pluggedin.com

    You have got to be kidding me?? There is no way those actors are carrying loaded backpacks. Their backpacks are much larger than they actually need to be and yet the actors toss them effortlessly onto their backs. You are not fooling anyone!

  • Puritans and experienced walkers will not like that some of the scenery is out of order/sequence. All the scenery is shot beautifully, but don’t walk the Frances expecting to walk exactly in Tom’s footsteps.
  • Like many other adventure movies, a lot of the hardships are glossed over. The blisters, the backache and tiredness are not really showcased, but I guess those small everyday agonies are not good movie fodder.
  • It is also a little implausible that +60-year old Tom walks a camino with no training or preparation, little knowledge and wearing someone else’s boots and backpack. Ah, the fantasy of Hollywood.
Who Should Watch The Way?
  • A movie poster of The Way
    Source: Google.com

    If you have ever wondered what the attraction of a Camino is, then I recommend you watch The Way. You get to walk 790km in the comfort of your own home and without even raising a sweat.

  • If you are planning to walk a camino, this movie will make you even more excited and make you want to start walking right NOW!
My Rating:

I give it an 8/10. It is not a world-beating story or acting, but it so accurately captures the feelings of the camino, especially the meditative and rhythmic nature of walking day after day. It makes me fondly remember the many wonderful people I met on my own caminos and the laughs, connections and conversations over endless bottles of the local vino tinto at the end of each walking day.

The Way
How Does it Compare to Other Walking Movies?

A brass shell inlaid in the footpath on the Camino FrancesI have not watched a lot of walking-themed movies, but I recently pounced on a $2-copy of the dvd A Walk in the Woods based on the book by Bill Bryson. This movie follows the adventures of Robert Redford (playing Bryson) and Nick Nolte as they attempt stages of the Appalachian Trail in eastern USA. The book was excellent. The movie was a dud. Don’t waste your time.

So, now it is over to you.

Fill up the Comments section below with your thoughts and recommendations. Have you watched The Way? Love it? Hate it?

What walking movies would you recommend?
An early morning start on the Camino Frances, September 2013
An early morning start on the Camino Frances, September 2013

#camino #travelinspo #caminodesantiago #armchairtravel #longdistancewalking #TheWay #moviereview #walkinginspain #martinsheen #emilioestevez

32 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Way – Does it Really Show What it is Like to Walk a Camino?

  1. kayfuzz June 10, 2020 / 11:34 am

    My all time favourite movie. I’ve watched so many times and it never fails to make me feel good.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure June 10, 2020 / 11:37 am

      I agree. I feel stupid, but I find myself smiling as I am watching it! Not that I look silly or anything sitting there on my own…. 😉 We just have to stay positive that our day will come again…

      Like

  2. Kerry Barling June 10, 2020 / 11:58 am

    Yes loved this movie. If the feelings evoked are accurate maybe I should start walking!!
    Might have to start in Oz….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure June 10, 2020 / 12:00 pm

      Now you’re talkin’! You would love it! Maybe not the albergues, but we can always find you better accommodation with less snorers! When do we leave?? 🙂

      Like

  3. Kerry Barling June 10, 2020 / 12:00 pm

    quite liked Wild…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure June 10, 2020 / 12:02 pm

      I am not sure I have seen Wild – I will have to look for it. I did love the book though and it has spurred many fantasies of walking the PCT one day, but I think I like a shower and a beer at the end of each day…a rare thing on the PCT! Melx

      Like

  4. tinybookmite June 10, 2020 / 12:10 pm

    Ah Mel! I remember so well watching this movie and encouraging you to see it; the rest is history, as they say! Ever since, I’ve had the joy of vicariously experiencing the many different caminos when you set off on your intrepid adventures. Keep it up girl!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure June 10, 2020 / 1:09 pm

      Am doing my best! However, there is this little Covid-kerfuffle I must endure before I can pull on my back pack again…one day soon I hope. Take care, x

      Like

  5. Molly June 10, 2020 / 1:34 pm

    I cried the first time I watched it three years ago because I was scared. I had just committed to walk the Camino alone and though beautiful and fun, it all seemed so overwhelming. I cried again when I watched it again just recently. This time they were tears of joy, gratitude, melancholy and celebration. I completed the 500 miles of the Camino last May/June. It was the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done. I’m 65. I walked it solo. And when I arrived in Santiago I sat in the Cathedral Square and cried, remembering how when I watched this movie, The Way, that first time, I wondered what lay ahead and could I really do it. I cried (again!) watching the film after completing the Camino adventure. Basically, I just cry a lot. lol The film captures the spirit, some of the scenery, ( in the spring it is lush green, flowers everywhere, and yes, rain) and the camaraderie is beautifully portrayed. That is what triggered my tears. Remembering. So many angels showed up to help, so many made me laugh, so many reminded me why there is hope for humanity. My recent viewing of The Way was while the US was in lock-down for the pandemic. I was so sad to know that two people in Italy, husband and wife – 41 and 38 years old – I had walked with on the Camino had died from Covid-19. The “me” who showed up in St. Jean Pied de Port to start the Camino was not the same woman who arrived in Santiago 5 weeks later. Get out and live your dreams. And toss your burdens in your own version of the coast of Finisterre. Buen Camino.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure June 10, 2020 / 1:45 pm

      Beautifully put! You have nailed every aspect of the journey. For me, not so many tears, but so much gratitude and resilience that I did not know existed deep down inside of me. It is a truly life-changing experience, although if push came to shove, it may be very difficult to accurately describe exactly how you changed. For me it was the sense of gratitude, joy and openness that came with every walking day. We are so lucky to have had this experience. My sincere condolence on the loss of your friends. Maybe a walk in their honour would be fitting acknowledgement of them. Take care and thanks for sharing, Mel

      Like

    • Life...One Big Adventure June 11, 2020 / 10:01 am

      It paints a good picture and certainly kick starts the wanderlust! Maybe I will see you on the way! Take care, Mel

      Like

  6. lue June 11, 2020 / 9:12 am

    I need to watch it again. I think when I watched it I felt it was a bit Hollywoodish but it was a lovely movie. Nary a blister in the whole thing though and that wasn’t accurate! I personally wasn’t plagued with blisters but they were a HUGE part of many people’s Camino. They should have thrown in at least one Pilgrim who was walking on the sides of his/her feet!
    We just cancelled our flight to Spain this fall . And it is a shocking feeling to know that we are not heading off to do another Camino. But we will be back!
    Nice post Melanie 💥

    Like

    • Life...One Big Adventure June 11, 2020 / 10:03 am

      If we can’t walk, we can watch! On recommendation of a whole bunch of people on Facebook, I have ordered the dvd – Six Ways to Santiago. Apparently it is a much more realistic portrayal of walking a camino. I will have to do a movie review of that one too! Keep dreaming Lue. Melx

      Like

      • lue June 11, 2020 / 1:35 pm

        Yes, Six Ways to Santiago is good, very real! 💥

        Liked by 2 people

        • Life...One Big Adventure June 11, 2020 / 3:26 pm

          I can picture it now. Plenty of blisters, bad hair days, snoring and general exhaustion all ’round. But lots and lots of laughter too…

          Like

    • Life...One Big Adventure June 12, 2020 / 7:24 am

      I nice bit of escapism from everything that is going on at the moment, but don’t forget it has a nice gloss of Hollywood over it, Buen Camino.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. willworkforairfare June 30, 2020 / 11:43 am

    Just watched this a few weeks ago, it was so good! The scenery absolutely got me.

    Like

    • Life...One Big Adventure June 30, 2020 / 4:33 pm

      And I have just watched Walking the Camino – Six Ways to Santiago. Also a fabulous film and probably a bit more accurate as to what you will see and what to expect. Buen camino!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. margaret21 July 17, 2020 / 5:36 pm

    Interesting. Apart from odd bits in France, I’ve never walked long stretches of any of the Camino, though it was once a dream to do so. Now my feeling is I’d still like to do an extended route, but not THE Spanish route, which comes over as a bit of a tourist-trap these days. Or am I wrong?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure July 18, 2020 / 9:55 am

      There are many different routes you can walk in Spain other than the Camino Frances. I walked the Via de la Plata from Seville up to Santiago de Compostela and it was lovely and quiet. Also the Caminho Portuguese was very pretty from Lisbon northwards. I had planned to walk the Madrid, San Salvador and Primitivo paths in May/June this year, but the Covid-kerfuffle put paid to that. I also have aspirations to walk the del Norte along the northern coastline. So there are plenty of options to stay away from the crowds. Just know that the closer you get to Santiago de Compostela, the busier it will be…Buen camino

      Liked by 1 person

    • Molly July 19, 2020 / 5:29 pm

      Margaret21…. I understand the wondering about its being a tourist trap. The same thought almost kept me from going. But I heard the call regardless, and I was wrong. Were there more people spring 2019 than most had seen? Yes. And still, my experience was surprisingly this….the thousands who have walked The Way, all had something on their minds- the weight of which was slowly shed. All that is shed is left behind on the trail and is encased in the prayers and hopes of all who walk the Camino share in some way. So it creates a 500 mile tunnel of grace. This grace is palpable. I think for that reason the commercialism of the Camino one expects to sense gets swallowed up and absorbed by the honor that IS the Camino. The crowds on some days faded in my mind due to the hundreds of hours I had in complete solitude. I just blessed the grace those many people were leaving behind for me. I hope I left something of value for them as well. I would just go…

      Liked by 2 people

      • margaret21 July 19, 2020 / 5:37 pm

        Thanks so much. That’s really interesting, and you’re not the only one to comment on the spiritual – not necessarily religious – experience that going on the Camino engenders. I’ll definitely think hard about this, though in Covid times, accommodation becomes more of a worry to someone like me in something of an at risk group. Some interesting planning ahead!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Molly July 19, 2020 / 5:41 pm

          Yes. I agree. These days there would be a different type of angst sensitivity to and large groups you encounter on some days. I would wait. The best to you.

          Liked by 2 people

      • Life...One Big Adventure July 20, 2020 / 7:23 am

        Thanks for your thoughts Molly. In some ways I think it is hard to describe a camino – it lacks something that you only truly understand by walking it yourself. That spiritual side is so important to so many people. Having said that we met two older Welsh men who were having the time of their lives meeting people – very little spirituality, replaced by lots of beer. They were hilarious blokes with good hearts – just opening themselves up to the Way.

        Like

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