The Way follows Tom (Martin Sheen), an ophthalmologist from California, who goes to France to collect the body of his adult son, Daniel (Emilio Estevez). Daniel had decided to give up the life he built, mid-stream in his pursuit of a PhD, and see the world. He says to his father, "You don't choose a life, Dad. You live one."
Daniel heads to France to walk the Camino de Santiago, also known as "The Way of St. James," an approximate 769 kilometer trek. As it turns out, Daniel dies in an accident his first day while in the Pyrenees mountains. Daniel is seen in flashbacks and in the imagination of Tom, as the film unfolds into a bond that is seemingly formed after Daniel's death.
Tom walks the Camino de Santiago for his son, spreading his ashes during the journey. Along the pilgrimage, Tom meets a Dutchman, Joost (Yorick van Wageningen) who is walking to loose weight, Canadian, Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), who healing from an abusive relationship, and Jack (James Nesbitt), an Irish writer who has lost inspiration. This unlikely group form a bond through healing of their own internal issues, while supporting Tom during his loss. At the beginning of the film, the French police chief who notified Tom of his son's death, tells Tom that when one walks the Camino, they walk for themselves. What Tom learns is that while walking The Way, you digest your sorrows, memories and challenges, always with the support of others.
The Way portrays the remarkable dynamic of interpersonal relationships, and the relationship we have with ourselves. Tom, who is a seemingly private person, gradually opens up to his companions while coming to an understanding of why his son broke from the traditional American dream. Sharing the same DNA, it is not surprising that we see Tom not only adapt, but thrive in his travels. He learns what it means to live life, rather than following the expectations of others.