“You don’t choose a life, Dad,” Daniel tells him in a tense exchange before traveling overseas. “You live one.”

In explaining this dialogue, Estevez, who is still widely known for his 1985 high-school jock role in John HughesThe Breakfast Club, says that “we’ve stopped being tourists in the world.

“I think what Daniel is saying to his father in that scene is you’ve got to wake up. You’ve got to get outside of yourself,” he continues. “We so often get stuck in our routines and it oftentimes looks hopeless to be able to break the chains of those routines. But you step outside of yourself and be a tourist in the world again and live in wonder again and look up.”

After receiving the devastating news regarding Daniel, the heartbroken father learns quite quickly what it means to be outside of the carefully controlled world he’s created for himself when he arrives in St. Pied de Port, France to collect his son’s ashes and discovers what the Camino de Santiago is really all about.

“’The Way’ is a very personal journey,” advises a kind police detective who meets with Tom upon arrival. “You walk the way only for yourself.”

As Tom begins to understand what his son was doing, instead of returning home to the States as expected, he does something completely out of character: he decides on impulse to extend his European stay and finish the Camino de Santiago while carrying Daniel’s ashes in tribute.

But in the end, it is Tom who will receive an unforeseen gift from Daniel along the way as he learns that he doesn’t have to walk this life alone.

“Emilio tells people that it’s more about me than anything I’ve played for quite some time,” admits Sheen of his role as the stubborn, patriarchal skeptic who doesn’t think he needs others. “And I would have to agree with that.”

Progress with the Pilgrims

Once Tom gets on his way, it’s no surprise when he bumps into other peregrinos (Spanish for “pilgrims”) who are also making the 500-mile expedition. Annoyed at first, Tom doesn’t want anyone breaking his stride—including the friendly, yet hedonistic, “fat Dutchman” named Joost (Yorick van Wageningen, the new world) who says he’s just trying to lose weight as his reason for walking the trek. 

Next, a bitter, chain-smoking Canadian divorcee named Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger, 88 minutes) joins their "merry" band. Her raison d’être is supposedly extinguishing her cigarette habit once and for all—but perhaps not until she reaches the cathedral, as she’s still got a good supply of smokes left to go. Besides, “this isn’t a race,” she reminds Tom as she observes his efforts to finish the trek as quickly and with as little interaction with the other pilgrims as possible.

Later on, the real reason she’s hiking the Camino de Santiago will be revealed to Tom in a most heartbreaking scene.