'Life in a Walk': Film Review

If only the conversations were as inspiring as the scenery.

A father-son reunion leads to big questions about life and family in this peripatetic documentary.

Ever since the Middle Ages, the Camino de Santiago, the ancient Christian pilgrimage route across the Iberian Peninsula that terminates in the city of Santiago de Campostela, has remained a magnet for seekers from all walks of life. For 30ish author, sports personality and former USC football coach Yogi Roth, his first feature-length documentary is an opportunity to reconnect with is father on the Camino after the older Roth’s successful struggle with prostate cancer.

Two weeks on foot crossing through Portugal and Spain should be enough to test the bonds of any family members, but the Roths manage to pull it off with aplomb and humor, at least on camera. With a built-in support base generated by an overperforming Indiegogo fundraising campaign and crowd-sourced community screenings coordinated by Gathr Films in a growing list of cities, Life in a Walk will get a chance to persuade the public that the Roth's journey is as inspiring for others as it is for themselves.

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Yogi invited his dad, Will, on the trek along one of the Camino’s alternate routes, which sets out from Portugal, to discover more about his father’s life and his family’s legacy. "I had a yearning to learn about life from my dad," he says by way of introduction. As an on-air correspondent, Yogi had seen a great deal of the world, but was still not familiar with his father’s early life or all the details of his own childhood. Departing from Porto along a 225-kilometer section of the Portuguese Way that crosses the north of the country before entering Spain, Yogi and Will, a former psychologist and retired financial professional, trade anecdotes and questions about life and family.

Following a frequently coastal route, they try to maintain a pace of approximately 20 miles per day, spending nights in local inns, but the realities of age- and fitness-imposed limitations, not to mention inclement weather, occasionally intervene. However, there’s always another philosophical or interpersonal topic to engage them, as Yogi absorbs decades of family history and sage advice during their chats.

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Truth be told, many of the details of these father-son exchanges on the meaning and purpose of life may not be of much interest to many viewers, but nonetheless, the men’s genial camaraderie gradually becomes intermittently engaging. However, there’s little description or discussion about the challenges of walking the Camino or the goals of fellow travelers,  perspectives much better articulated in Lydia B. Smith’s documentary Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago, released last year. Off-puttingly, the film sometimes plays like an extended video dating ad, as Yogi natters on about finding the perfect mate and becoming a caring father himself. 

Traveling light, Roth manages to coax decent production quality from his small crew, although unpredictable outdoor conditions occasionally compromise the audio quality, necessitating subtitling.

Production company: Life Without Limits Productions

Director: Yogi Roth

Producer: Ed Borneman

Executive Producers: Yogi Roth, Jonathan “JJ” James, Gregor Clark

Directors of photography: Eric Yoon, Chris Seerveld

Editors: Sam Young, Ed Borneman

Music: Rory Modica, Kate Voegele, Alexander Ebert


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