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Tom Avery (Martin Sheen) is a 60 year-old Californian eye doctor. He gets a call telling him that his semi-estranged son Daniel (Emilio Estevez) has been killed in France. He was trapped by a storm in the Pyrenees Mountains while on his first day of walking the Camino de Santiago (The Way of Saint James) across France and Spain.
Heartbroken, Tom flies to France to collect Daniel's body. After going through his son's possessions, Tom decides to honour Daniel's memory by walking the Camino de Santiago himself. Taking Daniel's ashes and donning his backpack, Tom sets off. Along the road he reluctantly joins up with three other pilgrims: a food-loving Dutchman called Joost (Yorick van Wageningen) who is walking the Way to lose weight; Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), a Canadian running from an abusive relationship; and an Irishman named Jack (James Nesbitt), who is suffering writer's block.
As Tom continues his journey, he slowly begins to heal while learning about his fellow trekkers, the countryside and its people. By the time Tom has finished his journey, he has developed a new understanding of himself and his dead son.
ThemesAccidental death; grief and grieving; religion and religious pilgrimage; drug use
This movie has some violence. For example:
- In one scene Tom and Sarah fight each other for possession of a box containing Daniel's ashes. During the scuffle, Sarah punches Tom in the face. Later Sarah apologises to Tom, implying that her reaction was in response to being abused by her husband.
- Sarah describes how she had a pregnancy terminated because she feared her husband would abuse the child. She says that at times she hears the voice of her baby.
- After getting drunk and verbally abusing his friends, Tom is arrested by the police. He struggles with the police, staggers and falls down. Later he sits in a police station with his wrist handcuffed to a rail.
- Tom chases after a young thief who steals his backpack. When Tom loses sight of the boy he gets angry, shouting and pleading for his backpack to be returned.
Content that may disturb children
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:
- There is a brief image of the head and partial torso of a dead man (Daniel) in a body bag on a table in a police morgue.
- There is a brief image of a coffin being cremated and Tom's grief-stricken response.
- While trying to get back his backpack, Tom jumps into a turbulent river. He is swept along until he manages to save himself.
Children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above and by the scenes where Tom scatters some of Daniel's ashes at locations along the Way.
Younger children in this age might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.
This movie has occasional low-level sexual innuendoes and references. For example:
- Joost talks about wanting to lose weight to keep his wife happy. He says she won't sleep with him because he is too fat.
- Joost jokes with a woman about her having 'a thing for Dutchmen'. The woman replies, 'In your dreams'.
- A man says a woman is 'sexy but complicated'.
- Sarah discusses the termination of an unwanted pregnancy.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
This movie shows some use of substances. For example:
- Throughout the movie, Tom and his fellow travellers drink wine, beer, champagne and stronger alcohol. During one meal, Tom gets drunk and abusive and is arrested.
- Joost often smokes marijuana. He offers marijuana and sleeping pills to several other people. In one scene, Joost refers to marijuana as a tobacco booster that helps him sleep.
- Sarah asks the small group if anyone has any drugs. Joost responds, 'I love this girl'. When Joost offers Sarah marijuana and then sleeping pills, she says, 'I love this guy'.
- Sarah is a chain smoker. She smokes cigarettes all the time, although several times she vows to quit.
- While drunk, Tom says that Joost has a bad memory because he has smoked too much hash.
Nudity and sexual activity
This movie has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- One scene shows the back view of a man weeing against a tree.
- One scene shows the back view of a man wearing only a G-string standing out in the open while hanging up his clothes.
- While at a rest house, Tom and his friends think they hear their host in the room upstairs having sex with a woman. When they investigate, they find that the man is talking to himself.
None of concern
This movie has some coarse language.
Ideas to discuss with your children
The Way is a drama aimed at a mature adolescent and adult audience. It is an inspiring, reflective movie with a strong cast, but its mature themes and subject matter - including drug use - make it less suitable for younger teenagers and tweens.
These are the movie's main messages:
- It's OK to be who you are. You don't have to change to suit others.
- Make sure that your choices give you time to enjoy life and take advantage of opportunities that come your way.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include the following:
- Self-reflection and self-discovery: during his journey, Tom spends much of his time thinking about his past interactions with his dead son. Through these reflections, he comes to terms with his own flaws and weaknesses.
- Friendship: in their own ways, Jack, Sarah and Joost all show friendship and support for Tom.