Le grand voyage
DIRECTOR: Ismaël Ferroukhi | WRITER: Ismaël Ferroukhi | CAST: Nicolas Cazalé, Mohamed Majd, Jacky Nercessian, Ghina Ognianova | France
My initial reaction on seeing Le grand voyage was that as a film — and director Ismaël Ferroukhi’s debut film at that — it was remarkably competent. Not great, not terrible, just competent. I think I felt that way because of the film’s overly familiar premise: a generational and cultural clash between two people who are forced by circumstances to be together and to work out, however tentatively, a rapprochement and who even come to understand and respect each other. In this case, a stern French-Moroccan father (Mohammed Majd) orders his non-religious and resentful teenaged son Réda (Nicolas Cazalé) to drive him from Provence to Mecca for the hajj. The film, then, is their trip across Europe and through Turkey, Syria and Jordan, before winding up in Mecca during the annual pilgrimage; we witness their disagreements and the various colorful characters they meet along the way. But Le grand voyage is better than merely competent. It’s actually pretty good and Ferroukhi has an exceptionally light touch, never lingering too long or too insistently, but never sweeping along at a breakneck pace: you feel that these two have traveled those 3000 miles in a beat up old car without feeling drained yourself. The location filming is extremely well done and the acting of the two leads is absolutely top-notch. Le grand voyage isn’t going to knock your socks off, but that’s OK. I’m adding a point because Nicolas Cazalé demonstrates convincingly that he really can act. And also because he shows that he’s equally stunning with a full head of hair and his clothes on as he is without either.