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EMILIO ESTEVEZ DIRECTS DAD MARTIN SHEEN IN EXPLORATION OF SPIRITUALITY

By Michael Calleri

Emilio Estevez has always been the quieter of the better-known sons of popular actor Martin Sheen. Son Charlie's antics have recently earned him reams of copy. There is another son, Ramon, and a daughter, Renee, both of whom have acted in movies and on TV.

For the record, Martin's actual name is Ramon Antonio Gerard Estevez, and he took the last name Sheen from a famous religious figure from 1950s television, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.

Emilio has also acted, but he now works behind the scenes, preferring to produce, write and direct movies. Emilio's newest project is "The Way," an effective attempt to capture spirituality on film. Martin Sheen plays Tom, a gruff and overly stern ophthalmologist, who lives in California.

The routine of his life is torn apart when his free-spirited son Daniel, played by Emilio, is killed in a tragic hiking accident during a pilgrimage along the El Camino de Santiago, which is also known as The Way Of Saint James. The primary route of the pilgrimage is from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried.

Tom flies to Europe to claim his son's body and accompany it back to the United States. But instead of returning, he decides to use Daniel's hiking gear and complete the trek himself.

He is grief-stricken, and he feels that finishing the 500-mile pilgrimage will draw him closer to the memory of his son. He has not been the warmest of fathers, and he believes that walking along the beautiful mountain trails through the Pyrenees will help him understand his son's passions and beliefs.

Along the way, Tom will meet other hikers, including an Irish writer of guidebooks (James Nesbitt) and a Canadian woman who wants to quit smoking (Deborah Kara Unger).

As the movie progresses, it becomes a work about the concept of "the pilgrimage." Why do people participate in them? How does it affect their spirituality? The characters will begin to share personal secrets among themselves.

"The Way" is quietly directed by Estevez, who also wrote the honest screenplay, which is based on the book "Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim's Route" by John Hitt.

As many as 275,000 pilgrims make the journey each year. The movie is essentially about coming to terms with change, especially upheavals in one's life.

The characters are simple, and that's not criticism. There's something refreshing about watching people who are forthright about what they want from an adventure such as this pilgrimage.

Juan Miguel Azpiroz's cinematography is beautiful. The satisfying, nicely acted film was shot on location in California, France and Spain.


"The Descendants" is a superb dramatic comedy starring George Clooney as Matt King, a lawyer born and raised and living in Hawaii whose wife is injured in a boating accident at the start of the film and lies in a coma in a hospital room.

He learns that she has kept a secret from him and he tries to discover why the secret existed. Additionally, he is now completely responsible for raising his two daughters. Up to this point, although he has been in the girls' lives, he has not been an exemplary father.

There is a subplot about Matt's extended family's landholdings in Hawaii and the value and meaning of natural beauty when compared to creating an expensive tourism development that will make everyone rich.

"The Descendants" presents a Hawaii you rarely see in the movies. There is not a lot of sunshine, but there is a lot of gray mist.

The film shows us the dreary, urban side of living in the state, with traffic jams, ugly modernist buildings, and troubled people who need to be reminded that they are, in fact, living in a paradise in the Pacific. Alexander Payne directed and co-wrote the uncluttered screenplay with Nat Faxon and Jim Rash from a novel by Kuai Hart Hemmings.

Payne is an unobtrusive director and his style works well here. He trusts his cast, which is why the naturalistic acting by everyone is excellent, with Clooney very effective as a workaholic coping with loss and new responsibilities.

Special note should be made of the fine performances by the three younger cast members Shailene Woodley as King's ornery teenage daughter, Amara Miller as his quirky 10-year-old daughter, and Nick Krause as Woodley's surfer boyfriend.

"The Descendants" is worthy of your attention.


The motion picture industry in India is one of the world's largest. In cities across the United States, including in the Buffalo-Niagara and southern Ontario regions, movies from India are shown on a regular basis, sometimes for a weekend, often for a week or two. You may be unaware of this interesting trend because almost all of the features are targeted at residents of Asian-Indian descent.

One of the most talked about new films from India is "Panjaa," a big-budget gangster adventure starring the hugely popular Pawan Kalyan. What's especially interesting about "Panjaa" is that the screenplay is written by a resident of the Niagara Frontier. Rahul Koda lives in the Buffalo area and regularly travels to India to work on films there.

"Panjaa" will have one local screening at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 11 at the Eastern Hills Cinema on Transit Road. It will also be shown in Rochester and Toronto.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Dec 6, 2011