Review: Walking the Camino

Walking the Camino documentary filmIf you’ve ever read any of my other film reviews, you may notice I’m somewhat less than sentimental. Some might call me cynical. I’ve even heard the phrase “unfeeling robot” thrown around once or twice.

So it’s with some “soul” searching and trepidation that I cautiously choose to not be cynical about Walking the Camino, the new documentary about the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage that will be showing at the Darkside Cinema starting tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 15.

Lydia Smith’s documentary follows six people on their journeys of spiritual pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. It is a 500-mile multi-route walk that is meant to cleanse the spirit.

I never thought in a million years I would write that sentence.

This documentary has me doing not only that, but also considering the journey myself.

Some of the characters we meet on the journey are more likable than others. Some are downright obnoxious. But the journey never seems anything less than restorative, and beautiful, and that’s if you’re not even religious. People of faith may find even more reasons to look at the journey.

The documentary has beautiful scenes along the way, as well as beautiful scenery. Smith, the director and producer of the film, is a veteran of camerawork in Hollywood, including on classic films like Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. Her eye for beauty is on display throughout the film. And though it lacks any surprises in terms of story, it may surprise you how much it makes you sympathize with the idea of taking a timeout from everything for a few weeks to recharge your… uh… chi?

I generally avoid this type of film for fear it will turn me into a hippie. I’m right to avoid this type of film. But Walking the Camino is an example of it done right.

The credits of the film thank Martin Sheen, who recently starred in The Way, a dramatic narrative film about a father walking the Camino to get closer to his recently deceased son. Sheen’s own son, Emilio Estevez, directed it and the concept for the film was from Sheen’s actual walk of the pilgrimage with his grandson, Taylor.

The nonfiction version of that film is what we see here, and truth is indeed stranger, more vibrant, and more enjoyable than fiction.

You sometimes wonder if you would react the same way as these people. Sometimes it’s less than flattering, sometimes it’s heartwarming, but is it what I’d go through? I have to do the walk to find out, I guess.

Watching the pilgrims we see moments of bravery, selflessness, comedy, warmth, pettiness, obliviousness, enlightenment, self-awareness, lack thereof, basically all the things that supposedly make reality TV enjoyable.

Only this is reality that doesn’t make you hate yourself. It’s reality TV for the soul.

Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago will be showing at the Darkside Cinema from Friday, Nov. 15 until you stop going to see it.

By Ygal Kaufman