- The Great Journey (2004) movie review: Mohamed Majd’s and Nicolas Cazalé’s excellent performances provide a welcome boost to Ismaël Ferroukhi’s father-son road (to Mecca) movie, in which the genre’s archetypal learning curve is much steeper for the carefree “Europeanized” young man than for his dour, reactionary Muslim father.
The Great Journey / Le grand voyage movie review: Traditionalism + sentimentality mar flawlessly acted father-son drama
Reminiscent of tried-and-true Hollywood fare like John Hughes’ Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Barry Levinson’s Rain Man – two opposite characters travel together; life lessons are learned – the French-Moroccan The Great Journey / Le grand voyage is a well-intentioned, capably directed, and beautifully acted road movie that turns out to be less satisfying that it should have been because screenwriter-director Ismaël Ferroukhi fails to strike a balance between the learning curves of old and young, religious and irreligious, parent and child.
In The Great Journey, the character who almost invariably comes out at the bottom of the curve is young, callow, French-born Reda (Nicolas Cazalé), whose rabidly reactionary, Moroccan Muslim father (Mar del Plata Film Festival Best Actor winner Mohamed Majd) 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 overbearing intransigence 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.
Tolerance only up to a point
“If the film has a message” Ferroukhi explained at this year’s LA Film Festival, “then it’s a message of tolerance,” adding that he had set out to make “a universal film [that would reach] beyond culture and religion.”
That’s a laudable goal, though this reviewer can’t help but wonder how tolerant the Muslim patriarch would have been had his son been carrying the photo of a non-Muslim guy throughout their pilgrimage to Mecca.
Sentimentality over self-awareness
Ultimately, Ferroukhi chose not to have the North African man realize that his religious piety and ascetic ways do not make him morally superior to his fun-loving European son.
At the very least, the filmmaker might have made that point clear to his audience. But The Great Journey never reaches that destination, opting instead for a more facile – and none too convincing – conclusion in which adversity leads to a sentimental outburst of filial love.
The Great Journey / Le grand voyage (2004)
Direction & Screenplay: Ismaël Ferroukhi.
Cast: Nicolas Cazalé. Mohamed Majd. Jacky Nercessian. Ghina Ognianova. Kamel Belghazi.
“The Great Journey Movie (2004) Review” endnotes
In addition to earning Mohamed Majd the Best Actor award at Mar del Plata, The Great Journey / Le grand voyage was named the festival’s Best Film as well. It also received the Venice Film Festival‘s Luigi De Laurentiis Award for Best First Film and was nominated for the Best Film Not in the English Language BAFTA.
The Great Journey movie reviewed at the LA Film Festival (website).
Nicolas Cazalé The Great Journey / Le grand voyage movie image: A2L Production Films.
“The Great Journey: Stellar Performances in Traditionalist Father-Son Tale” last updated in June 2022.