Category Archives: Reviews

Review of “The Way”

Before Christianity was called Christianity it was simply “The Way”. It was not a religion, not an organisation, not a set of doctrines, but simply a path to walk.

As someone said in a talk I heard recently, I set out to be a follower of Jesus, not a professional purveyor of religion. Now the film The Way has reminded those of us who follow Jesus that it’s about the journey.

The Way tells us the story of Tom, an American ophthalmologist, whose only son Daniel is killed as he begins to walk the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route from France across northern Spain, ending at Santiago de Compostela. Tom decides to walk the 800km of the Camino himself to complete what Daniel never achieved. On the Way Tom joins up with two men and a woman who all have their own reasons for walking the Camino.

None of the four companions is walking as a Christian pilgrim, but each walks to find answers and to change their lives for the better. As with all pilgrimage, the purpose is not the destination but the journey.

The film is the work of writer and director Emilio Estevez and his father Martin Sheen. Sheen himself plays Tom, and Estevez appears as Daniel, mostly in flashback and in Tom’s imagination as a companion on the walk. The film is an exploration of the relationship between father and son In addition to the on-screen father-son relationship,  the film is dedicated to the memory of Sheen’s father and was inspired by Estevez’s son, Taylor. 

In every so-called talent programme and casting show these days the story is in the “journey”. Each person we meet has to be weak, talentless and timid at first, progressing through their limited ability to a triumphant climax and launch into superstardom. Of course this is entirely artificial, an invented narrative to fulfil the requirements of a TV format. 

In fiction “the journey” is a narrative device used in much great writing from Canterbury Tales to Huckleberry Finn, and a hundred road films. As the three ragged men and one woman of “The Way” followed the Camino I was reminded of four others who followed the Yellow Brick Road, and was I was delighted to read later that The Wizard of Oz was in the mind of Emilio Estevez as he made the film.

Recent films made by Christian writers and directors have also been road movies. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is, like The Way, a journey of characters thrown together on a quest for salvation. And Africa United, the story of five children walking from Rwanda to South Africa for the football World Cup, has similar themes. 

For Christians The Way is the Way of Christ, and this road movie takes us on that journey, a journey of faith and transformation. It is an inspirational film without any artifice in its emotional appeal. The magnificent scenery, the hardness of the travelling and the purposeful journey of the main characters inspires us to find our way, our way home.

The Way is on general release in the UK from May 13, 2011, and in the US from September 30, 2011. Thanks for the preview tickets go to Premier Christian Radio, official Faith Media Partners with Icon for The Way

Stories that feed your soul

I was sent a copy of Tony Campolo’s book “Stories that feed your soul” by the good people at The Ooze through as one of  their “Viral Bloggers”.

Campolo is one of my favourite Christian speakers. No, I’ll correct that, he is my number one favourite Christian speaker: radical and challenging and engaging, magnetic and hilariously funny. With Campolo humour is the way to soften up the listeners, to relax them, so that the point is driven home so much harder and more memorably.

“Stories that feed your soul” is the second collection of Campolo’s stories, drawn from his storehouse of illustrations. Some are interesting, some are engaging, some are delightful and some are just good jokes. I don’t know why, but when I read them sometimes the voice I’m hearing in my head is Tony Campolo and sometimes its Woody Allen. Either way the story is well told and always has a point to drive home. The stories are not new – one of the stories here (“A Father’s Blind Love” on page 30 if you’re interested) I first heard Campolo tell in a sermon at the Spring Harvest conference in 1989. But that same story is one that stayed with me then and I have re-told it myself in churches and schools ever since.

The book is helpfully divided into sections based around Romans chapter 8. Each section starts with a  few verses from the chapter and a short reflection. This is a clever device, sending the reader back to God’s Word and reminding us that these are stories to illustrate scripture, not just entertaining anecdotes.

“Stories that feed your soul” is worth getting hold of, reading, and then reading again with a highlighter pen and creating your own index. Many of these stories will find their way into my preaching and burrow their way into my soul. This is soul food, and worth a place on anyone’s menu.

“Stories that feed your soul” by Tony Campolo is published by Regal in hardback and retails at £12.99 in the UK.