By Daniel Nelson
The Way Home is an Indian variation on a road movie, as a doctor fulfils the wish of a dying woman to find her five-year-old son and unite him with the father he has never met.
The twist is that the father is a terrorist leader whose operations killed the doctor’s wife and son in a marketplace blast.
The film – screening at the current London Indian Film Festival – comes with a pedigree, having won an Indian National Film award for best Malayalam film.
It wears its heart a little too openly on its humanist sleeve, as the doctor repeatedly explains to the impressed people he meets on his journey why he is endangering his life for someone with whom he has no connection, other than a simple twist of fate.
Once the set-up is established, man and boy hit the road, by bus and truck and car, drawing closer to the head of the Jihadi terrorist group through a series of chance encounters.
At one point their travels take them to the scene of a planned terrorist attack: I thought we were going to be presented with a version of “is torture justified if it prevents an atrocity”, but the film sticks to its theme of the rightness of uniting the child with his father, despite the potential danger of him being brought up as a terrorist, and the overriding importance of helping others despite the risk to oneself.
The journey, as required of a road movie, takes in geographical contrasts, from the serenity of rural Kerala, to the desert of Rajasthan and the grandeur of the Himalayas. The characters we meet include a solitary sage (reading an Orhan Pamuk book), a cultured bookseller and assorted terrorist gang members.
I liked the ambition of the subject matter, the quiet understatedness of the performances, and the matter-of-factness of the terrorist sequences, but it is too pat to be gripping, too carefully packaged and presented – too self-satisfied with the rectitude of its own humanity.
I would like to know what happens to the boy after the final twist in the plot. If it was Hollywood, I’d be waiting for The Way Home - 2.