"What the hell is wrong with that kid?" Martin Sheen's conservative optometrist, Tom, laments about his estranged backpacking 40-year-old son, Daniel (Emilio Estevez) in The Way.
He trundles off to the golf course with his well-heeled pals, but his chip shot is disrupted by a phone call informing him son has perished on the Pyrenees. Daniel died in a storm on the first leg of El Camino de Santiago (also known as The Way of Saint James) pilgrimage. To honour his son, Sheen's "stiff" decides to walk the 800km route, waved on by Tchéky Karyo's beatific, homily spouting police captain.
Tom's plan – as much as we can infer, as he doesn't speak that much – is to march, alone, and scatter his son's ashes at various points along the route. But his solitary, mournful progress is consistently disrupted by a host of stereotypes (isn't that always the way, you go out for a hike and a stereotype hinders your path?). Inevitably, Tom ends up bonding with these dysfunctional pilgrims – a chain-smoking Canadian, Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), a kindly chubby Dutchman, Joost (Yorick van Wageningen), and a verbose Irish writer, Jack (James Nesbitt) suffering from writer's block (he's as annoying as he sounds) – and we follow their plodding, cliché-ridden journey to a spiritual awakening... or something.
Twenty minutes in and there is a sense of overwhelming terror that there's another 100 minutes of Emilio Estevez's mawkish love letter to his daddy – and, more creepily, to himself – to go. However, Sheen, the lumbering Dutchman and the gorgeous countryside (it comes across half Pyrenees tourist-board video, half beginners' guide to spiritualism and Catholicism) just about keep The Way going, and the Apocalypse Now star's red hair really is a marvel. It's in great nick. You do worry what Martin's other son, Charlie, thinks of it all, though. Frankly, watching his brother suck up to father on film is probably the last thing he needs right now.