Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA/Spain, 2010. Filmax Entertainment, Icon Entertainment International, Elixir Films. Screenplay by Emilio Estevez, based on the book Off The Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down The Pilgrim’s Route Into Spain by Jack Hitt. Cinematography by Juan Miguel Azpiroz. Produced by David Alexanian, Emilio Estevez. Music by Tyler Bates. Production Design by Víctor Molero. Costume Design by Tatiana Hernandez. Film Editing by Richard Chew, Raul Davalos.
Martin Sheen is a strait-laced ophthalmologist who has always been at odds with his less conventional son (Emilio Estevez, also director and writer). Driving him to the airport, Sheen argues with Estevez one last time before the younger man heads to Spain where he plans to walk the Camino del Santiago, the centuries-old pilgrimage that begins in the Pyrenees and whose spiritual accomplishment in arriving at the remains of St. James means something different to everyone who walks it. Sheen gets a phone call not long afterwards that his son has died in an accident during a freak storm and must fly out and claim the body. Once there, filled with regret for never having made a strong connection with his child, he is inspired to cremate the remains and walk The Way himself, leaving pieces of the deceased at important stops throughout the journey. Angry and elusive, Sheen’s bristly personality does not prevent him from making a few companions as well, including a jolly Dutchman (Yorick van Wageningen, who suffers the film’s worst and most grating dialogue) looking to drop a few pounds, a bitter Canadian woman (Deborah Kara Unger, mysterious as always) trying to quit smoking, and a mouthy Irish journalist (James Nesbitt) hoping to cure his writer’s block. They shout, they cry, they cajole, they share wine in a sun-dappled landscape; they and this film are completely shameless, but I wouldn’t say it is unworthy of your time as a whole. Estevez tries so very hard to make the film meaningful that it comes off grossly overwrought, its manipulations far too blunt to be swallowed, but Sheen’s dignified and rich performance gives it its moments of poignancy, and even when the film isn’t moving it is surprisingly entertaining. That said, I’d still stick to Bunuel’s The Milky Way.
Toronto International Film Festival: 2010