Editor’s Note: Having now had the extreme pleasure of actually viewing this movie myself, all I can say is “GO!” It is by far one of, if not the, best movie I’ve ever seen. I am more baffled than ever as to why folks might not like it, except that they were possibly mislead into expecting one of those sappy “Christian” movies where all the characters magically turn into perfect little Stepford Believers at the end, or that because Martin Sheen is Catholic, or because there are many Catholic themes, that this movie is some sort of catechism device. (Thank goodness it’s not. . . talk about b o r i n g!) No, this movie gives us characters we can totally relate to and understand, who we can cry with and cheer for. Go see it, I think you’ll be glad you did!
A couple of weeks ago I saw Emilio Estevez and his father, Martin Sheen in an interview, and I was VERY impressed. I was pleased to see two such well-known actors talk about being Catholic in a positive light. And, I was delighted to hear how much they respect one another; the mutual admiration between these two is palatable. However, I think the best part for me was when Martin Sheen talked about his wife. He talked about her like he was a smitten teenager! 🙂 How refreshing! To make it even more like a fairy tale, they told us how Mr. & Mrs. Sheen are celebrating 50 years of marriage! Wow. You just don’t see that every day, especially in Hollywood.
But the reason they were making the TV interview circuit is because they have a new movie coming out: “The Way”. The movie is about several people making a pilgrimage in Spain called Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James). Naturally, the movie is meeting with mixed reviews.
Now, I have to admit I’ve not seen it yet, but it is on my list of “Absolutely must go see!” movies. (That and “Tower Heist”, because I am a die-hard Alan Alda fan! ;)) But, having read some of the less glowing reviews, I would like to take the liberty of going ahead and sharing some of my pre-viewing thoughts, and why I am fully expecting to enjoy this movie when I do get to see it.
I think it is very important to view everything in the context in which it is set. This setting is in Europe, and they have a very different culture (I am not judging right, wrong, or indifferent, merely different from our American worldview). Our worldview here in the United States is very Protestant, and very sterile. We forget that we are a very small piece of the world-pie, and things are very different “over there”. We must not judge European culture based on our American sensibilities.
For example, many of the characters do things that would curdle our moral milk. They smoke, curse, use drugs. I do not believe that because a character in a movie smokes, or uses profanity, or whatever, that they are actually promoting that behavior. In Europe, smoking doesn’t have the negative connotation that it does here. I see the movie more as portraying characters who are real, believable. In the real world, people do those things, and struggle with those things, and can still love Jesus very much! I think this movie explores the fact that we are all struggling with our own demons, and yet still seeking God. That does encourage me, but not to smoke or use drugs! It encourages me that I am not alone in my sinfulness, and that we can all love and support one another as we try to find our own ‘way’.
And, while I don’t really think anyone wants to see a man wearing a thong (I know I don’t want to!) the fact of the matter is, the dress code in Europe is, shall I say, much more ‘open’? than it is here in the States. So, I think my reaction to that is more of “Ewwww” instead of any sort of moral objection. The same thing with the scattering of the son’s ashes. I don’t think they were trying to send some message that “This is what the Catholic Church teaches!”, and I doubt anyone would take it that way. (The Church is very much against cremation, although there are many exceptions to this rule.)
I think they were trying to portray Catholics living their real, albeit imperfect lives, as best as they can. It’s refreshing to me to see Catholics and our faith being portrayed in a non-pedophilic light!!! Let’s face it, for years now, we’ve suffered a brutal beating in the media, and it’s nice to see a movie in which Catholicism is a GOOD and NORMAL thing! And let’s be honest, too. We all are sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God. (Read Romans for verification on this.) Why is it bad to admit that on screen? Perhaps someone will see this movie and think to themselves “Wow. . . these guys are REAL. They aren’t perfect, yet they still love the Church. . .maybe I *can* go back!”
I cannot imagine taking small children to see this movie, not because it’s morally objectionable, but because the issues being dealt with are adult issues, and probably very boring to little ones. I do not think it teaches children to smoke, curse or use drugs, or that cremation is the new Catholic Norm. I think looking for some hidden message in this movie is a mistake. This isn’t Sesame Street or Dora the Explorer. It’s not geared at teaching children moral, theological truths. To look at it through those glasses is to miss the meaning entirely. This movie is not about children! It’s about real, Catholic, adults! That in itself is cool to me.
(I should probably mention here that I really, really, really dislike sappy Christian movies in which everyone has a “Come to Jesus!” moment, gets “saved” and then they all live happily ever after. <GAG> That just doesn’t happen in real life, and I think it makes Christians look like complete buffoons to folks who are actually suffering in the real world. All that does, in my humble opinion, is make us look too-good-to-be-true, and our lifestyle seem totally unattainable. It also comes across as judgmental, again, IMHO.)
As homeschoolers, in particular, we tend to get very legalistic. We tend to shun anything that doesn’t practice what we preach. Thank God that Jesus didn’t do that. Just think, he would have spent his entire time on earth alone, because nobody would have been good enough to hang out with him!! I think we need to think outside our boxes from time to time and realize that just because a movie doesn’t live up to our own personal, draconian standard of morality does not necessarily mean that the movie is bad, or that it is even teaching bad things!
I applaud Emilio Estevez for  for trying to give us a snapshot of people living their faith, in particular their Catholic faith, albeit imperfectly. I desperately hope that our Lord is not as harsh with me as I have been in judging others’ morality! I must confess, I would not pass that test. I think this movie is a huge step in the right direction for bringing Catholicism back into a positive light in the media.