An early showing of a new film that depicts a father’s life-altering journey across the historical “El Camino de Santiago,” also known as the way of St. James, was recently presented at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. In an interview with THE IRISH ROVER, Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen explained the decisions to screen their film at Notre Dame.
A father-son collaboration, “The Way” stars Martin Sheen and was written and directed by his son Emilio Estevez. “The Way,” filmed entirely in France and Spain, will be released in select theaters nationwide on October 7.
While traveling cross-country on a tour bus to present their film, Estevez recalled that the Notre Dame football team would be playing a home game on September 17. Sheen, who received Notre Dame’s prestigious Laetare Medal in 2008, had never attended a home game and Estevez said it was absolutely necessary for them to attend. Estevez told his staff, “September 17 is when Notre Dame plays MSU, so we need to be at Notre Dame by the 17th.”
Sheen also explained that he wished to screen the film at Notre Dame because of its unique emphasis on community.
“We think you guys will get it,” said Estevez. “We are not interested in what Beverly Hills has to say.” Similarly, Sheen asserted Notre Dame has the right fit as “a campus [that] celebrates faith and community.”
Community is a theme that is heavily evident in the film, as the main character does not complete his pilgrimage without the accompaniment of friends.
The film portrays an estranged relationship between father and son. Sheen, as the protagonist Tom, is an American doctor who belongs to the country club. He enjoys his security in his “bubble” and highly disapproves his son Daniel’s life. Daniel (Estevez) is the dreamer, the free spirit, an aspiring anthropologist who wants to see the world. In Daniel’s last venture, however, he decides to walk the Camino de Santiago and is killed in a tragic accident.
Carrying a WIZARD OF OZ plotline, Estevez stated, “an emotional tornado picks [Tom] up,” to place him on his WAY. Therefore, as Tom, a lapsed Catholic, who is empty and broken by the death of his only son tries to put together what step to take next, he recalls his last conversation with Daniel.
Tom’s son tells his father that “You don’t choose a life, you live one,” and in this recollection, Tom is spurred to pay homage to his son by completing the pilgrimage and sprinkling his ashes along the way.
Though at the beginning of the route, Tom is coldhearted and indifferent to other passerby, his Dorothy-like character is introduced to his Lion, Tinman, and Scarecrow. The 4 misfits, after arguments and one arrest, slowly get to “experience the journey within.” As the film comes to a close, the main character, once a hard and hollow character, “becomes fully awaken” and comes to see the life his son Daniel lived wholeheartedly.
Known for working alongside Catholic social activist Dorothy Day, Sheen recalled that his life as a Catholic has been filled with social justice and service.
“I was raised Catholic, and then faded away and then came back 30 years ago. But I came back to the church of social justice, of people and social activism,” he said.
While social activism is not the prominent theme of the film, the idea to “accept the cup as offered” is present, in that each person, even Tom, embraces what is put in front of him and carries onward. Sheen summed it up with the phrase, “You have to do the journey; carry your load.”
“If there is any one thing to take away from this film,” Sheen said, “it would be to inspire.” Numerous people have walked the Camino de Santiago, including some Notre Dame students. Sheen hopes this film does the camino justice and excites many others to plan the journey.
Though the film highlights one man’s journey of realization, “The Way” also inspires its viewers to look inside their own heart of hearts and consider the value of a life well lived.
“The Way” is to be honored at the Heartland Film Festival on October 13 with the Truly Moving Picture Award.
Adriana Garcia is a senior theology/sociology major who got a hug from Martin Sheen once the interview was finished. Bragging rights! She can be contacted at email@example.com.