Le Grand Voyage

"Excellent"

Le Grand Voyage Review


Imagine driving a rattletrap station wagon from France all the way to Saudi Arabia. Now that's what we'd call a grand voyage, and that's what Le Grand Voyage delivers, an extreme road trip unlike any other you've ever witnessed.

The elderly patriarch (Mohamed Majd) of a family of Muslim Moroccans who have resided in France for years has gotten it into his head that this is the perfect year for him to finally make his pilgrimage to the Hajj in Mecca. Because he's a subscriber to the theory that the journey is the reward, he decides that he must go by land, but since he knows it will be a tough trip, he demands that his 18-year-old son Réda (Nicolas Cazalé) drive him.

"Say what?" asks the shocked Réda (in French, of course). He's busy studying for exams and messing around with his girlfriend. Who has time for these silly superstitions? But loyal son that he is, he fills up the tank, and away they go, zooming through the night across France and Italy before entering the Balkans.

There is an almost total lack of communication between Réda and his father, and as the miles roll by, the big question is whether the intensity of the trip will forge a bond between them, a bond that is sorely lacking. At first, things look bleak. Réda, who does all the driving, is exhausted, cranky, and furious when his father refuses to stop for sightseeing, even as they pass Venice. Dad only sees the road ahead and says little other than "Keep driving" and "We'll stop here for the night." Sleeping in the car is fine with him.

In the spooky Balkans they find themselves confronting scary roadblocks, jittery soldiers, and an old crone who jumps in their car and wordlessly commands them to take her along to an unspecified destination (they later desert her in Zagreb). In Istanbul they pick up a friendly, fast-talking Turk who offers to come along and act as a guide, but can he be trusted? Réda doesn't think so.

On and on they go through Jordan and Syria, where Réda suddenly begins to feel the pull of his Islamic roots. France this is not, but by now the duo considers buying a live sheep and putting it in their back seat to eat later to be a fairly mundane occurrence.

The film's climax in Mecca is fascinating. Filmed during the Hajj, the scenes of multitudes of pilgrims arriving from every direction in flowing white robes are remarkable. Réda and Dad have hooked up with a merry band of Syrians by now, and although Réda doesn't attend the actual ceremonies, he can now see why the journey has been so important for his father. Perhaps he's finally growing up.

Nicolas Cazalé is one of France's finest young actors, intense, expressive and deeply moving in his role. (France gets Cazalé; we get Josh Hartnett and Ashton Kutcher.) This is his film, and he carries it with style. We get to experience not only the incredible sweeping scenery he sees along the way but also his intimate inner conflicts. Le Grand Voyage is a story told on both the largest and smallest scales. It's fascinating both ways.

Take a left at the light.



Le Grand Voyage

Facts and Figures

Run time: 108 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 24th November 2004

Distributed by: Pyramide Distribution

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Ismaël Ferroukhi

Producer:

Starring: Nicolas Cazalé as Reda, Mohamed Majd as The Father

Also starring:

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