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?
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 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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
- 116 minutes long
- Stars: Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez (plus as writer, producer and director), James Nesbitt, Deborah Kara Unger and Yorick Van Wageningen.
- The movie is set in 2010, so happy 10 year anniversary to everyone.
- The Way can be purchased from YouTube and Amazon.
How Does it Compare to Other Walking Movies?
I 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?
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