“Pretty overwhelming and I’m pretty nervous.”Director, script writer and actor Emilio Estevez still gets the jitters when screening one of his movies, especially when it’s an independent film with spiritual content (not an easy pill for many to swallow), such as “The Way.”He was sharing his feelings minutes before starting the Sept. 23 movie screening at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, sponsored by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). According to Estevez, it was the biggest venue where the picture had been screened so far during “The Way” bus tour that started in Malibu Aug. 27 with a rosary, a prayer for peace and a blessing. About 5,000 people attended the premiere screening; most of them were participants at the national AARP annual event and expo held next door at the Los Angeles Convention Center.It was the tour’s fifth stop after St. Paul, Minnesota; Madison, Wisconsin; Chicago, Illinois; and Cleveland, Ohio. “It’s OK to be gray,” Estevez told AARP The Magazine on the red carpet. “Hollywood had better wake up and say, ‘You know what, there is a demographic out there that is woefully underserved, human beings who have some time and some dough and they will go and they will vote with their wallets, so how ’bout we start making more films for them?’”Estevez, who wrote the script, has declared that the main character’s role could not have been played by anyone else but his father Martin Sheen, also present on the red carpet with his other two sons, Ramon Estevez and Charlie Sheen. The bus tour was done in part, Estevez said, to “get the money back” for private investors who financed the movie, “given Hollywood’s fear of films with religious aspects.” The film is being released by alternative company Producers Distribution Agency and ARC Entertainment.The filmThe first scene of the movie subtly tells it all.Advanced-in-age Ventura-based ophthalmologist Tom Avery (Martin Sheen) kindly scolds his elderly patient for trying to trick him into her lie. She has memorized the chart so he can approve her eye exam in order to get her driver’s license. She pretends to see more than she really does.The conversation, both funny and serious, between the two senior citizens sets the pace, but it’s a line told by Avery’s son Daniel (played by Estevez) a few scenes later that summarizes the film’s message.“You don’t choose a life, Dad, you live one,” he tells his father while they discuss the liberal life of the young adult and only child of the ophthalmologist and his deceased wife. Soon after the impatient and cranky Avery is notified about his son’s death (while walking a 500-mile pilgrimage to Camino Santiago in Spain, just after starting at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France), he travels to pick his son’s remains. But as he gets to France, moved by a conversation with the policeman who made the call and has also lost a son, he decides to embark on the same pilgrimage. On the way he befriends three travelers: a directionless Dutch (Yorick van Wageningen) who says he’s trying to lose weight to fit a best man’s suit for a relative’s wedding; a chain-smoking Canadian woman (Deborah Kara Unger), the only one in the group who admits to be religious and later shares with Avery a deep hurt; and a professional Irish writer (James Nesbitt) who is walking the 500 miles to lose a strong case of writer’s block.Back storyAccording to the New York Times, “The Way” came about after Sheen visited Galicia, Spain in 2003 with his grandson Taylor (Estevez’s son). With not enough time to walk El Camino, which ends in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, where the bones of St. James are buried, they had enough time for Taylor to meet his future wife at one of the inns that serve the pilgrims. At the beginning of the journey people get a special passport that is stamped at each stop, where they are received by locals as if dignitaries.People, including those devoted to religious life, have walked the path during thousands of years, hoping to see a miracle happen in their lives. Many have said it is really a pilgrimage that has changed their lives, including actress Unger.“My real life changed at about 6 a.m. the day we were about to film inside the Cathedral,” she told The Tidings. Without providing details, she said she received an email that has shifted her entire life. “During the entire movie I was thinking of my devout Catholic grandmother,” she said.Jesuit Father Michael Kennedy, a longtime friend of the Sheens, told The Tidings that he had received on Sept. 27 an email from a Jesuit walking the Camino. “Everything he wrote described perfectly what I experienced seeing ‘The Way,’” said Father Kennedy. “The movie really was able to portray the depth of religious experience one goes through on this spiritual journey,” he noted. “We tend to run away from movies that challenge us having to examine false values that control us.”‘Redemption and healing’“Most father/son stories are about sons catching up to the father and overtaking them; this one is about the father becoming the son and then becoming himself,” Sheen said. “He only really became a father after he lost his son.” As she introduced the movie’s filmmakers, AARP The Magazine’s editor Nancy Perry Graham, provided an anecdote of how “Martin Sheen’s faith travels,” a parallel path with the movie’s content.“He handed me a rosary that helped a lot during a hard time in my life, and just recently I passed the rosary to a colleague who is very sick,” she said. “We can say it is a traveling rosary started by Martin Sheen.”“He is truly an authentic man, my favorite actor,” added Estevez as he passed the microphone to his father.“It’s a story of redemption, renewal and healing,” Martin Sheen said. “It’s a journey to become ourselves. No more pretenses, but you transcend.”And Sheen invited the audience to “go on a special journey of pilgrimage and entertainment.”The Way opens Oct. 7 in 15 cities across the country, including Los Angeles.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0930/theway/{/gallery}