The Way, My Way (2024)

The Way, My Way Review

The Way, My Way

If the purpose of this enjoyable, light hearted film about walking across Spain on the Camino de Santiago was to make us want to travel on foot through another country and drink wine occasionally, then it surely succeeded: crack open the Pinot and hand me a hiking pole!

Based on his 2013 memoir of the same name, The Way, My Way tells the story of Australian filmmaker Bill Bennett’s 800km trek to the burial place of St James. Thousands have trodden that path before him.

Pilgrim is a loaded word, religiously speaking at least don’t expect much spiritual discussion from a film that seems at times to be labouring an only real point: “pilgrims” can also mean people with lots of time on their hands.

The tone and tempo are documentary like. If you went in cold you’d probably think it was one. Bennett is played by veteran actor Chris Haywood but among his fellow travelers are pilgrims he actually hiked with only four out of 20 speaking parts belong to professional actors.

It never feels important but not in a bad way; its unassuming charm reminded me of Celia Pacquola and Luke McGregor’s delightful comedy series Rosehaven, which finds solace from modern life in a slower gear and big lungfuls of fresh country air.

Bennett has made many narrative films classic neo-noir Kiss or Kill (1997), gold-digging-themed comedy The Nugget (2002). Here he takes a quietly subversive route that feels proudly undramatic and includes moments other movies might have left on the cutting room floor.

One arrives about 20 minutes in when Bennett is stuck in a small town with nothing to do; he decides to bring the film itself on his time-wasting mission, wandering about talking about himself via voiceover in deliberately pointless scene. There’s something strangely refreshing about what appears to be a well-paced film with no discernible haste at all, extolling an affection for walking, talking and drinking.

It starts with Haywood as Bennett driving along a Spanish road, explaining that it all began on holiday when he “saw this line of hikers walking along this track” and wondered how “they seemed to be walking with such purpose”. He takes an abrupt turn into sarcasm: “It reminded me of lemmings plodding mindlessly headlong to their death,” he says. To him the pilgrims looked like nutters. Then another swift turn when he announces, out of nowhere, that he “just knew that I had to walk the Camino de Santiago”.

When Bennett’s wife Jennifer Cluff (playing herself) asks why he wants to do this, Bennett replies: “I’ll have to get back to you on that.” It’s a funny line that speaks to the film’s light touch and utter lack of fussiness about comedy.

Bennett wisely doesn’t bother trying to explain what drew him to the pilgrimage perhaps because human behavior is so unpredictable: sometimes we just do things, like go on very long walks or watch Is It Cake?

Bennett brings a grouchy old guy vibe that keeps this experience from being too sweet. For instance, at one point he turns a chance encounter with another, much younger hiker into an opportunity for some roadside lecturing, pointing out the man’s poor choice of socks (“they’re supposed to be merino!”) and admonishing him for doing a pilgrimage “in disco shoes.”

He knows he’s being a bit of a dick. But he also becomes an ear for other travellers to talk into about traumatic parts of their lives and big problems they’re facing recreated in sensitive moments that really hit the heartstrings. The Way, My Way isn’t exactly gripping stuff but it is gently curious about life and hard to hate.

Watch The Way, My Way For Free On Gomovies.

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