Though it looks to humanize Islam for the nutjobs in the world who believe all Muslims belong to extremist terrorist groups, Ismaël Ferroukhi first film is really nothing more than a road movie that operates under the contrived notion that old people are smart and young people are big dumb animals. Ferroukhi knows how to cut to the chase: A young French man, Reda (Nicolas Cazalé), is forced to take his crotchety Moroccan father (Mohamed Majid) on a cross-European trip to Saudi Arabia so the old man can go to Mecca. They say very little to each other along the way, but Le Grand Voyage doesn’t exactly starve for action, because the world seems to secretly conspire with the father to enlighten the son. An encounter with a strange woman the duo picks up before entering Turkey from Bulgaria is distressing and shrouded in mysticism, and while the woman seems to test both father and son’s sense of responsibility, all remaining trials seem to target only the son: Understandably annoyed because his father threw away his cellphone, Reda can’t hold on to a sheep long enough for his father to cut its throat and ignores a woman who begs him for alms not too far outside of Mecca. Even when Reda manages to win one battle (his father mistakenly accuses a fellow traveler of having stolen their money), the young man is ill-equipped to enjoy the spoils of his victory. The tinkly score by Fowzi Guerdjou only has uplift in mind, stressing that Reda’s evolution throughout the film isn’t so much a spiritual journey as it is a form of sensitivity training. Old man good, young man bad—I get it already! But as obvious and cloying as Ferrouckhi pitches the story’s road trip, his direction is remarkably confident and the performances, especially Cazalé‘s, are remarkable. Le Grand Voyage is one of the few productions allowed to shoot in Mecca; the final images are breathtaking, as is a final cathartic exchange between father and son, which makes the rough trip leading up to this moment worth the wait. Almost.
- Film Movement
- 108 min
- Ismaël Ferroukhi
- Ismaël Ferroukhi
- Nicolas Cazalé, Mohamed Majd, Jacky Nercessian, Ghina Ognianova, Kamel Belghazi, Atik Mohamed, Malika Mesrar El Hadaoui, François Baroni, Krassi Kpacu
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