- The Great Journey movie (2004) review: Mohamed Majd’s and Nicolas Cazalé’s first-rate performances provide a welcome boost to Ismaël Ferroukhi’s traditionalist father-son road (to Mecca) movie, in which, however unfairly, the genre’s archetypal learning curve is much steeper for the carefree, immature, “Europeanized” young man than for his dour, overbearing, reactionary Muslim father.
The Great Journey movie review: Traditionalism + sentimentality mar flawlessly acted father-son Road to Mecca drama
The French-Moroccan father-son drama The Great Journey / Le grand voyage, winner of the Golden Astor for Best Film in Mar del Plata and the Luigi De Laurentiis Award for Best First Film in Venice, 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, father and son.
In The Great Journey, the character who almost invariably comes out at the bottom of the curve is the young, callous, French-born Reda (Nicolas Cazalé), whose rabidly reactionary, Moroccan Muslim father (an outstanding Mohamed Majd, Best Actor winner in Mar del Plata) 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 it would be curious to see just how tolerant The Great Journey’s Muslim patriarch would have been had his son been carrying the photo of a non-Muslim guy throughout their pilgrimage to Mecca.
In all, Ferroukhi could have chosen to depict the North African man’s ultimate realization that his religious piety and ascetic ways do not make him morally superior to his fun-loving European son. Or at the very least, the filmmaker could have made that point clear to his audience.
The Great Journey, however, 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. Malika Mesrar El Hadaoui.
Cinematography: Katell Djian. Film Editing: Tina Baz. Music: Fowzi Guerdjou. Producer: Humbert Balsan.
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The Great Journey movie cast and crew information via the IMDb and other sources.
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 Movie (2004) Review: Stellar Performances Enhance Traditionalist Road Movie” last updated in March 2021.