A good friend walked part of the Camino de Santiago a couple of years ago and when we saw that this movie was being shown at one of our local cinemas we knew we had to go.
Do you know of the Camino? It is a Catholic pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. For more than 1,000 years pilgrims have traveled along the many Caminos/walking trails to Santiago. The trails originate in various parts of Europe, some start and finish in Spain, and they all converge on Santiago de Compostela .
The most popular Camino walking trail is the Camino Frances. This part of the Camino de Santiago traditionally starts in St Jean Pied de Port in France and finishes some 780 kms later in Santiago de Compostela. However you can start anywhere and even continue past Santiago to the sea at Finisterre. Cape Finisterre was thought to be the end of the world in medieval times.
Now to the film. Thomas Avery (Martin Sheen) is an American ophthalmologist who goes to France to retrieve the body of his son who was killed during a storm while walking the Camino. After some soul-searching and to honour his son’s wishes to complete the journey, Tom decides to walk the ancient spiritual trail where his son died. He decides to scatter his son’s ashes at various points along the way. But he is an inexperienced distance walker (trekker) and he finds the going hard.
On his journey he falls in with three other pilgrims and together they make the journey across France and Spain to their destination. Each is walking the camino for his/her own reasons and to solve a particular dilemma and during the walk Tom comes to realise that there is so much more to live for than his ‘ordinary’ life back in the States.
This is a movie well worth seeing if it comes to your area. It is a collaboration between Sheen and his son Emilio Estevez who wrote and directed the movie. Estevez plays the role of the son in the movie. I imagine that it will have an effect on many who see this film even to the extent that some might decide to walk part or perhaps even the whole trail.
The Way is not bound up with religion although it ends in the Catholic Cathedral of St James. For me it spoke of finding out who we are and about living our lives in the company of others, fully aware of our surroundings, ourselves and others.
And one of the things that we do see in the movie, and which my friend also witnessed was the swinging of the Thurible – the huge incense burner that takes eight men to swing it. Apparently this was a necessary piece of equipment in the olden days when pilgrims walked the track with no access to water for bathing and arrived at the journey’s end smiling and smelling. The smell of the incense was to cover the other smells.
For more on the Thurible (or The Botafumeiro) at the Cathedral see
“One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting their bad advice..”
From The Journey by Mary Oliver.
for the rest of this Mary Oliver poem click here.
- Lavacolla to Santiago de Compostela (jaminwithnancy.com)
- Camino De Santiago De Compostela. (ralphiesportal.me)
- Medieval Codex Calixtinus recovered; four arrested (boingboing.net)