-- "Along the Way: The Journey of a Father and Son" (Free Press), by Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez with Hope Edelman: First see their movie, then read their book.

Their movie is "The Way," a crowd-pleasing indie production starring actor Martin Sheen and written and directed by his son Emilio Estevez. In the film, a father tries to connect with a deceased son by taking up his spiritual pilgrimage to northern Spain.

Their book is "Along the Way: The Journey of a Father and Son," an equally engaging dual memoir by Sheen and Estevez that explores their lives and their intense relationship. Punctuated with humor and unusual frankness, the emotional highs and lows they share will resonate with fathers and sons.

One of 10 children raised in a blue-collar neighborhood in Dayton, Ohio, young Ramon Estevez found lots of love at home but little support for his ambition to perform for a living. With a loan from a priest, he moved to New York City and took the stage name Martin Sheen. He was just 21 when Emilio, the first of his four children, was born in 1962. Immature as a father and as an actor, Sheen would struggle in both roles.

A starring part in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play "The Subject Was Roses" in 1964 was Sheen's big break. More film and television roles came over time – "Badlands" (1973) and "The Execution of Private Slovik" (1974) were particular standouts. Selfishly, he brought his family to film locations, whether in Colorado or Italy or Mexico. He admits he needed them as he coped with the frustrations and insecurities that fueled a drinking problem. For years they coped with his drunken rages until he embraced sobriety.

For a teenage Emilio Estevez, being separated from school and friends was no longer a welcome adventure. After months and months in the Philippines while his father worked on "Apocalypse Now" (1979), he'd had enough and wanted to go home. One night they came to blows, the fracas loud enough to draw Marlon Brando to their door. Building on that low moment, they would come to a new understanding – not for the first time and not for the last.

Estevez found himself taking on the role of father as unexpectedly as Sheen had – and at 21, just like his dad. His acting career was taking off with the filming of "The Breakfast Club" (1985) when his girlfriend had their baby. Now he, too, would face the conflicts of being an actor and being a parent.

Sheen and Estevez write as much about family and spiritual matters – the recent antics of son and brother Charlie Sheen are not included – as they do about their work. "Along the Way" offers the promise that our differences don't have to divide us if we keep love, respect and forgiveness in our hearts. That would be a comfort on any journey.


Douglass K. Daniel is the author of "Tough as Nails: The Life and Films of Richard Brooks" (University of Wisconsin Press).

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  • Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez

    US actor Martin Sheen (R) arrives with US director Emilio Estevez for the Premiere of their latest film 'The Way' in central London on February 21, 2011. AFP PHOTO / MAX NASH (Photo credit should read MAX NASH/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Martin Sheen

    LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 03: Actor Martin Sheen attends the one-night reading of '8' presented by The American Foundation For Equal Rights & Broadway Impact at The Wilshire Ebell Theatre on March 3, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

  • 'The Way' Photocall

    MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 10: Actor Martin Sheen (L) and director Emilio Estevez (R) attend 'The Way' photocall at the Ritz Hotel on November 10, 2010 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

  • Emilio Estevez

    CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 19: Emilio Estevez attends the Career Achievement Award ceremony honoring Martin Sheen during the 47th Chicago International film festival at the AMC River East Theater on August 19, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images)

  • Premiere Of "8"

    LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 03: Actors Martin Sheen (L) and Ramon Estevez arrive at the premiere of '8' presented by The American Foundation For Equal Rights & Broadway Impact at The Wilshire Ebell Theatre on March 3, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

  • Charlie Sheen

    Martin Sheen's son, Charlie Sheen, arrives at Comedy Central's Roast of Charlie Sheen held at Sony Studios on September 10, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

  • Martin Sheen & Emilio Estevez pose with Larry Flick

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 07: Actors Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez pose with The Morning Jolt host Larry Flick (C) at SiriusXM Studio on October 7, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)