Eye For Film >> Movies >> Le Grand Voyage (2004) Film Review
Le Grand Voyage
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
Three thousand miles from France to Saudi Arabia in a blue car with an orange door is a challenge many might be only too happy to accept. There is a catch, however. You are going to Mecca; you don't really believe in the religious baggage and you are driving your father, who stops to pray every 50 miles.
As a film, this can only be one thing - a road movie - but don't be put off by the uninspiring aspect of a bolshy twentysomething stuck for weeks in the company of a man he hardly knows, who doesn't speak very often, unless to say, we can't do this and we can't do that and Venice is out of the question for a day's R & R ("We are not tourists") and getting lost in Serbia because the old man doesn't believe in maps - certainly can't read them - must be written off as one more occupational hazard.
"Why are you driving so fast?" he complains. "Those who hurry are already dead."
Reda (Nicolas Cazale), the son, learns quickly that confrontation is useless, argument a waste of breath and patience a virtue. All he thinks about is Lisa, his girlfriend, to whom he sneaks a call on his mobile phone before Papa (Mohamed Majd) drops it in a trashcan when he's asleep. They fight, they make up, they fight again, but this is more than a bonding session between generations. It's about the journey and the reason for the journey, the meaning of faith and the importance of Mecca.
The father may be hard on his son, yet demonstrates, with little acts of generosity to those less fortunate, like the mad woman in the Balkans who climbs into the back seat and insists on going to Delic, which apparently doesn't exit, a degree of compassion that is unsentimental and unconditional. Slowly, as the journey progresses, Reda begins to respect his father and realise the value of his traditions.
The film is a glorious surprise. Slowly, it stops being difficult - the miles stretching ahead like tiresome children - and the true impact of this extraordinary feat of endurance (not least for the car), pitted with problems and illuminated by insights, becomes plain, culminating in scenes of astonishing beauty.
The performances are perfectly attuned and emotionally the film builds to a life-altering finale.Reviewed on: 07 Jan 2006
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