Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago an immersive journey

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A documentary by Lydia B. Smith. In English, Spanish, and French, with English subtitles. Rating unavailable.

Martin Sheen did the 800-kilometre pilgrimage from the French border to the western edge of Spain and went back with (good) son Emilio Estevez to capture the on-foot journey in The Way, a so-so fictionalization of this soul-searching trek.

Walking the Camino gives a fuller, less pushy picture of what it takes to make that pedestrian effort, and what one is likely to encounter on the way to Santiago de Compostela.

The documentary’s subtitle is a misnomer since it follows about a dozen people—mostly white Europeans and North Americans—along one predetermined route, with its myriad hostelries and churches.

Some folks are more simpatico than others, naturally, with a multilingual Portuguese and a punky English Brazilian presenting interesting contrasts, since he seems so balanced and she’s a self-confessed basket case literally getting her life back on track. A French mother brings her boisterous three-year-old son and a kid brother, and moans about both of them. An American (also one of the film’s producers) worries about her health when she keeps falling behind other pilgrims. Two Canadian septuagenarians are looking to help one get over the recent death of his wife. And a young Danish woman meets a handsome Quebecker on the road and something happens, gradually.

Although most aspects of life show up here, the film is completely uninterested in such quotidian things as what the travellers eat and where they take their bathroom breaks. First-time feature maker Lydia B. Smith pays heed to the spiritual aspects of the Camino, but with her extensive background in cinematography, Smith’s main focus is on the luxuriant physicality of the sometimes rocky path’s varied settings and climates. She really puts you there, without the blisters.

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