Rarely does an audience laugh and cry during the same movie. It's either a tearjerker or a comedy, but not both. Yet that's what happened at a Chicago International Film Festival prescreening of Martin Sheen's and son Emilio Estevez's The Way. And I wasn't the only one.
The tears were not from laughter. They were tears of recognition. That's the best way I can describe them. They were cleansing tears in a way, too.
The screenplay is written and directed by Estevez, who stars in it with his father, to whom he presented the Silver Hugo, a career achievement award from the Festival. Sheen plays an eye doctor who, against his better judgment, ends up on a walking pilgrimage along the 500-mile Camino de Santiago, starting off in the French Pyrenees and ending near Galicia, Spain. It's a three-month trek if you make it all the way, and Sheen in real life did walk the walk in 2003. By the way, this film is not just for Christians. Atheists, agnostics, and those of other faiths and creeds will be able to enjoy and relate to this journey, too.
Filmed on location, the movie's director, Sheen's son Estevez revealed that in attempting to lighten the load of his 71-year-old father's backpack, he got brushback from his dad, who wanted to carry the realistically heavier pack, maintaining it would help him play the part better.
In stark relief to what passes for the "entertainment" efforts of our major motion picture studios, the Sheen family's The Way isn't a film you have to worry about apologizing for having recommended to your movie companions.
You know what I'm talking about. You pick a flick, essentially vouching for it, and then invite your boss, client, colleague, spouse/sweetheart, parent, child, grandchild, or best friend to accompany you. Only to be embarrassed by the foul language, vulgar situations, gross sex (meaning totally unsexy sex), ethnic slurs, and/or demeaning depictions of women, men, and animals. Let's face it. Much of what is on the silver screen today, is patently offensive and utterly without redeeming social value.
Not to belabor the point, but The Way does not get in the way of enjoying a movie. You can actually go see it with others, sit back and be entertained without having to say you're sorry. Sorry that you picked it. Not having to be Forrest Gump looking into a box of chocolates and wondering what you're gonna get.
Like it or not, Hollywood sets a standard for behavior. An example, if you will.
But what kind of example it sets, is at issue. So, if you are sick and tired of what Hollywood's been masquerading as role model behavior, then vote with your movie dollars and go see The Way instead of the other "slash 'n' trash" fare out there. You have the power to stop this Hollywood charade. To call them out like the little child did in Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale, "The Emperor's New ("No") Clothes."
Remember, inviting someone to a show like The Way -- and there will be more of these types of shows if it succeeds at the box office with your help -- means never having to say you're sorry (and my late professor and friend Erich Segal would be proud).