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Saturday, September 11, 2010
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Emilio Estevez‘s “The Way” (still seeking domestic distribution) — not to be confused with Peter Weir‘s “The Way Back” (Newmarket, 1/21/11, no trailer yet) — had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday afternoon. In the film, Estevez’s father Martin Sheen plays a man whose faith is tested by the sudden death of his son, and who finds a rather unique way of moving forward with his life after he gets the news: walking the 485-mile-long Camino de Santiago. “The Way” was received very warmly by the audience at the Winter Garden Theatre — which, incidentally, included a number of potential distributors, among them Harvey Weinstein.

It’s worth checking out the film just to see Sheen, who has been one of our most talented and popular actors for decades but has worked only sporadically since “The West Wing” ended in 2006, probably because few good roles are written for 70 year olds. His son gave him a meaty one here, though,  and made him work for it — he had to lug a backpack for miles and miles, swim through icy water, and do all sorts of other things. Moviegoers always root for Sheen, who oozes decency and integrity, but they did so even more than usual during this film because of all that his character quietly endures out of a love for his son.

“The Way” faces a few of problems, though. People generally don’t buy tickets to movies that revolve around older people (see “Boynton Beach Club” and dozens of others) and/or are enveloped in sadness (see “The Boys Are Back,” which received a standing ovation at TIFF last year and then went nowhere), regardless of how well-acted they may be. Moreover, Estevez certainly has room to improve as a writer and director — as was the case with the last feature he directed, “Bobby” (2006), this film has its impressive moments, but its script is clunky (“I guess I’m not bringing anything home”/”But you are”), while the film itself runs too long (128 minutes, including several false endings). That being said, some additional editing could probably correct a lot of this, and religious viewers might show up anyway.

Photo: Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen bask in applause following the premiere of “The Way.” Credit: Scott Feinberg.

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