This documentary depicts the real-life journey of pilgrims travelling by foot for 800 kilometres along Spain's El Camino de Santiago. The film focusses on the experiences of the pilgrims and their reaction to a daunting, but inspirational, journey.
It takes six pilgrims from their starting point to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain where legend says the remains of James the Apostle, the patron Saint of Spain, lie buried. It focuses on the most common route to Santiago - from France, across the Iberian Peninsula, to Santiago. The journey takes over 30 days.
The film is a real-life variation of the fictional movie, The Way (2010), starring Martin Sheen, which also honoured the Camino de Santiago by showing a group of pilgrims doing the walk. Sheen is also associated with the making of this documentary.
The pilgrims concerned are aged from 3 to 73 years, and come from different countries. Together, they cross an entire country along hiking paths, stony roads, and narrow tracks with just a backpack, light provisions, a sense of adventure, and a willingness to find a deeper, more spiritual purpose to their existence. The film tells us forcefully, that "the real Camino is their lives."
Tomas Moreno is doing the Camino walk without any idea about its physical rigours, and he starts the journey with blisters on his feet. Wayne Emde is doing the walk to honour the memory of his dead wife and is still grieving about his loss. Annie O'Neill is committed religiously to the walk, but her physical health raises serious questions about whether she will be able to complete her journey. Jack Greenhaigh is doing the walk to accompany his friend, Wayne. Sam from Brazil, is clinically depressed and has just lost her job, and a boyfriend on drugs, and is searching for what should come next in her life.
The film is both a travelog and the story of a spiritual quest.
As a travelogue, the scenery is glorious, and the film's photography is outstanding. As a spiritual quest, the film is inspiring. There are many reasons why the six pilgrims want to complete the walk, and the movie captures the variability of their different motivations very movingly. They vary in their religious background, and in the particular motivation for why they want to do the journey.
This is a Catholic-looking film by a non-Catholic director. It sensitively celebrates the spiritual journey of a diverse group of people across a wide spectrum of emotions and experiences, and it conveys uplifting and powerful messages about resilience, courage, and hope.
- Reviewed by Peter Sheehan, ACOFB