Maritin Sheen plays Tom, an opthamologist with an ostensibly comfortable life in California, he has a good practice, and a regular foursome at the local golf course, yet he seems distanced from it all. A recent widow with a rocky relationship with his only child, Daniel, played by Emilio Estevez, Tom's life is not all contentment. A man who has achieved success by choosing his life's course early and keeping on track, Tom's son rejects the same course of action, saying, "You don't choose your life, you live it". Daniel suspends his PhD studies in anthropology to experience foreign cultures in person. He ventures to Spain to walk the thousand year old pilgrimage called "El Camino de Santigao" or "the way" to the cathedral of Santiago de Campostelo, where the remains of St James the Apostle are buried in Spain.
Tom is stunned when he receives a long distance call from a policeman in France saying that Daniel was found dead at the start of the Camino in the French Pyrenees, puts his life on hold and takes the next plane to Europe. The story follows Tom in his quest to complete Daniel's pilgrimage, distributing his ashes along the route. A fascinating mix of characters engage Tom, who at first reluctant to share his purpose, later embraces the companionship on El Camino. Stunning scenery, interesting characters, and surprising plot twists keep the story from blandness, and the ending is unusually thought provoking for a Hollywood film.
Adult themes are explored, and a surprising pro-life theme is touched upon, so this may be a good film to open up discussions in youth groups. Characters are well developed and believable, and follow the typical mix of travelers one encounters while backpacking in Europe. Emilio is still exploring his religious beliefs, a fact which he shared with me in his interview.
I grew up in a house, where, as a boy, we lived in New York City for six years, my mother was raised Southern Baptist, and my father was a devout Catholic. And, as a boy, I heard nothing but arguments about religion, and it was very, very confusing to me, and, as a result it left a very distasteful feeling for me. Where I finally ended up, is that all of the children were Baptized, but we were not practicing Catholics, in fact, my father fell away from the Church for quite some time, and then came back in 1981, there was a reconversion. So, for me, this has been a long journey, my mother likes to call me a work in progress. And I am that, and I think the film is a reflection of my spiritual journey. Its often said that the proof is in the pudding, but I like to say that its in the eating of the pudding. And if you’ve seen the film then its pretty clear where I’m at in my spiritual path.The only feature of this film which may offend some viewers is the manner in which Tom distributes the ashes of his son's remains, since it is against Catholic teaching not to bury them in consecrated soil and there was no funeral. It is highly recommended as an engaging, yet meditative film for adolescents and up.
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