Le Grand Voyage

French-Moroccan film Le Grand Voyage is an insightful and enlightening expedition into intergenerational familial relationships.
Le Grand Voyage tells the story of the coming of age of Reda (Nicholas Cazalé, Le Clan), a son who cannot communicate well with his father (Mohamed Majd, Testament). When Reda is told that he must drive his father across Europe in a marathon trip to fulfill his father’s dream of completing his pilgrimage to Mecca, Reda is unwilling and angry at being forced to take on another man’s quest—even though that other man is his father. Throughout their journey, the two constantly bicker and disagree over how to approach the different strangers they meet, who will determine which route to take and, more fundamentally, what is important in their lives. Along the way, it is the people they meet and the situations they have to overcome that finally bring this father and son pair to a better understanding and appreciation of one another.
What could have been a slow movie of awkward silences and sideways glares is actually punctuated throughout by clever and amusing scenes. The pair meets some bizarre characters accentuating both the humor and paradoxical terribleness of their situation as family members estranged by different generational beliefs. Director Ismaël Ferroukhi (TV’s Petit Ben) has achieved a well-balanced cocktail of poignancy, mirth and subtle vulnerability that gives this film its strength.
The performances of Cazalé and Majd are both strong. Cazalé is superb, displaying youthful insolence combined with an appealing puppy dog vulnerability, while Majd lends depth to the controlling father who is both frustrated by his son’s antics and fearful for his son’s future.
Le Grand Voyage is a film worthy of the international accolades it has received, including best film at the Mar del Plata Film Festival and the Luigi de Laurentiis Award at the Venice Film Festival in 2004. The scenes of the pilgrimage in Mecca are particularly impressive: After so many closeup shots in the confined space of a car cabin, the impact of these panning wide screen moments is spectacular.
Le Grand Voyage is a successful journey through the dissatisfaction and joy of human relationships that is meaningful and rewarding without trying too hard to drive home the point, and is one of most poignant road movies we’ve ever seen.