Documentaries are so dependent and focused on their topic of choice that the way to get the most out of the genre is to have some sort of vested interest in what’s being discussed. This is no different for Lydia Smith’s Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago, which acts as both a history lesson and a character study, centered around the famous Catholic pilgrim path the Camino de Santiago. The film, for the most part, tells the stories of numerous people traveling the hundreds of kilometers that make up the Camino over the course of several weeks. It points out why the journey doesn’t simply have to be a religious trek, but truly means different things to each individual.
The idea is that the audience is supposed to journey along with the film’s main subjects — from the very religious Tatiana, who’s walking the Camino with her atheist brother and young son, to Tomas, who sees the Camino as an adventure. While a lot of time is spent with these people, the film never digs too deeply into their reasons for making such a grueling trip. There’s only a look at the surface, which might be fine for viewers already interested in the Camino, but for someone (like me) who isn’t initiated, the approach doesn’t do much to truly engage or enlighten.
Not helping matters is the fact that Walking the Camino simply doesn’t have a lot to say, instead choosing to reiterate points it’s already made. In the film’s defense, this isn’t some activist documentary pummeling you over the head with its ideas. Instead, Walking the Camino is more about the ways in which humanity and kindness manifest themselves along the path. And while that’s a commendable aim, there are only so many ways to illustrate this idea, turning the movie less into the inspirational tract it wants to be and into something more akin to a travelogue.
This, in itself, isn’t enough to crush the film, namely because its well-intentioned ideals are inherently pleasant. This alone — and the likable personalities of the film’s subjects — are enough to keep Walking the Camino watchable, but it does keep its appeal a bit on the limited side. Not Rated.
Playing at Carolina Cinemas