Lydia Smith's Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago is a sweet little movie about a group of people varying in age and personalities who take the 500-mile walk to Santiago de Compostela, with each having a profound experience.
A few years back, director Emilio Estevez paid tribute to the pilgrimage with The Way, a drama starring his dad, Martin Sheen. I found Smith's film to be a better encapsulation of the experience. Before Estevez made his movie, his dad suggested they make a documentary about the Camino instead. Father knew best, because the Estevez film was pretty poor.
Smith, who was inspired to make the movie after doing the trek herself in 2008, gets a nice international sampling of people as her walking subjects. The greatest charm of this film is watching how each of these participants reacts and grows through the centuries-old tradition of crossing Spain on foot.
There's Annie, an American and the most visibly emotional of the bunch, setting her own pace because she has a bout with tendonitis as she makes her way. We see Annie crying a couple of times, but she makes it through her pains and has a spiritually fulfilling experience.
Tatiana, a religiously devout woman from France, has brought her brother Alexis along as well as her intrepid 3-year-old son. Tatiana takes the experience seriously while Alexis treats it like a vacation/party. Of the travelers depicted in the movie, Tatiana seems to be the most agitated. Her son is a kick, and it's impressive that the little guy had the patience to walk the Camino. Smith shows us no child tantrums, but I have to imagine the boy lost his cool at one point or another. Perhaps his tantrum or two wound up on the cutting room floor.
The film's most touching moment is provided by Wayne, a Canadian widower who, along with his priest friend, is doing the pilgrimage in memory of his recently deceased wife. Wayne comes to tears when explaining his reasons for taking the long walk, and seeing him having a good time as the film moves on is genuinely heartwarming.
There's Tomas, who provides the film with some drama as his feet swell with blisters and his ankles go all wonky. In a truly kind gesture, one of his walking buddies gives Tomas his shoes when he leaves the Camino, demonstrating how friendships can sprout fast during the experience. I'm glad Tomas got his new shoes because my feet were starting to hurt just watching him.
From Denmark, there's Misa, who has come to the Camino for some solitude and soul searching, but winds up doing the trek with a younger man. The film suggests the two get real close, even though Misa observes that they probably wouldn't be getting together due to their age gap. Again, the power of the Camino! (It should be noted that Misa is supercute, so it's not surprising that the dude doesn't let an age gap stop him).
Finally, there's Sam, a Brazilian woman who takes to the Camino after the end of a relationship and losing her job. Of all the participants, Sam appears to be in the worst place emotionally and spiritually. By film's end, she appears to be making some progress.
All of these stories are tied together and balanced well by Smith. No doubt, she has much appreciation for the Camino trek, a vibe that comes through for the majority of the film's running time.
Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago left me wanting to take a nice long hike with strangers. That's a sensation I've never really had before, but this film does a nice job of showing how enriching, both spiritually and physically, the Camino trek must be.