Thursday, 23 May 2024 07:36

The Way, The Camino, a new film

The Way, The Camino, a new film

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THE WAY, MY WAY, Australia, 2024, 100 minutes. Chris Haywood. Directed by Bill Bennett.


So far this year we have seen Cabrini and, now, The Way, My Way, two films with a strong Catholic interest.

It is amazing how well-known and popular the Camino de Santiago has become. Originally, a Catholic pilgrim devotion, it is now walked by a wide range of pilgrims, religious, spiritual, secular…

Already in 2010, there was a feature film, The Way, where actor Emilio Estevez directed his devout Catholic activist father, Martin Sheen. As expected, it followed a varied group along the scenic route as they discussed, pondered their lives, experienced some deepening of self-awareness.

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While The Way featured fictitious characters, in 2015, there was a documentary feature, Walking the Camino to Santiago, where the director of the film joined actual pilgrims, sharing the journey with them, giving background to the Camino, explaining some of the religious context as well as practices.

In 2013, Australian writer-director, Bill Bennett, who had been working in film and television since the 1970s, with films like A Street to Die, walked the Camino and published a book of his experiences. It has taken a decade for him to get his memoir to the screen. He has written the screenplay, has cast veteran actor, Chris Haywood, with whom he had worked long since, as a film-maker named Bill, married to Jen for 41 years. She is played here by actress, Jennifer Cluff, Bennett’s wife of the last 40 years, who also served as a producer.

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Chris Haywood is a familiar figure from many movies since the 1970s. He is not exactly young to be setting out on the Camino. He is not a believer but, on a visit to Spain, sees the pilgrims, reminding him of lemmings on their way to the cliff edge. He chats. He asks questions. And returning home, this stays with him quite powerfully, curiosity, intrigued, obsessive and deciding to go himself. He closely studies the maps, descriptions, meticulous about his pack, the weight, relationship to his body weight, the possibilities for walking – and practising with long and longer walks in the countryside.

He is also grilled by Jen, trying to get strongly-felt answers from him. Then, an economy flight (and his complaints) to Biarritz, sharing a taxi with three others, beginning the Camino.

The screen informs us throughout which day it is, how many kilometres he has walked, how many to go, the 780 total.

For those who have walked, plenty of scenery, countryside, towns, hostels that they will remember. And there is a lot of information and cautions for those intending to walk. As expected, with Bill’s voice-over comments about the walk, his very bung knee, about fellow-pilgrims, invites us to share his experience, his moods, confusions. And there is his questioning and his personal self-revelation about simplicity in life, an apology to Jen, who admits he is a very difficult man but she loves him.


Also, as expected, Bill encounters nine pilgrims, older rather than younger, two exuberant men from Hungary, thoughtful direct Dutch woman, a sympathetic Italian couple, a sad Spanish woman who broods, a young Asian man, and a Scots former business CEO. As they walk, encounter each other at times along the way, share their lives, those great deal of warmth and friendship.

The pilgrims are ordinary people and Bill Bennett is telling his story for an ordinary audience, inviting them to identify with Bill and the others. There are some specifically religious references, especially a moving “confessional” sequence, some happy meditative moments in the Cathedral of St James.

The Way, My Way is an invitation to reflection for people of faith or not – an invitation to a spiritual experience.