Le Grand Voyage: Well-intentioned but mostly traditionalist father-son drama
The French-Moroccan father-son drama Le Grand Voyage, winner of the Luigi De Laurentiis Award for best first film at the Venice Film Festival, is a well-intentioned, well-directed, and beautifully acted road movie that is less satisfying that it should have been because writer-director Ismaël Ferroukhi fails to strike a balance between the learning needs of both young and old, religious and non-religious, sons and patriarchs.
In Le Grand Voyage, described by the director as “a love story between a father and a son,” the one who almost invariably comes out at the bottom of the learning curve is the young French-born Reda (Nicolas Cazalé), whose rabidly conservative Moroccan Muslim father (an outstanding Mohamed Majd, Best Actor winner at the Mar del Plata Film Festival) forces him to act as chauffeur on an arduous 5,000 km pilgrimage to Mecca.
The closest we get to a mellowing of the father’s rigid stance is his eventual acceptance of his son’s non-Muslim girlfriend, who can be seen in a photograph the young man carries around with him.
Le Grand Voyage: Tolerance up to a point
“If the film has a message” Ferroukhi told the Le Grand Voyage audience at the Los Angeles Film Festival, “then it’s a message of tolerance.” He explained that he set out to make “a universal film [that would reach] beyond culture and religion.” That’s as honorable attempt, though I’d be curious to see just how tolerant Le Grand Voyage‘s reactionary Muslim father would have been had the son been carrying the photo of a non-Muslim guy throughout their pilgrimage to Mecca.
Ultimately, considering the father’s stern, bossy, self-righteous manner, Ferroukhi should have depicted the North African man’s eventual realization that his religious piety and ascetic ways do not make him morally superior to his carefree, fun-loving, European son. Le Grand Voyage, however, never reaches that destination, opting instead for a more facile – and none too convincing – resolution in which tragedy leads to a final outburst of filial love.
Reviewed at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
Le Grand Voyage (2004). Dir. / Scr.: Ismaël Ferroukhi. Cast: Nicolas Cazalé, Mohamed Majd, Jacky Nercessian, Ghina Ognianova.
Nicolas Cazalé Le Grand Voyage image: Los Angeles Film Festival.