Le Grand Voyage chronicles the coming of age for Reda, a French-Muslim teenager forced by his father to drive the 3000+ mile trip to Mecca on a pilgrimage. Along the way they have the expected father-son, the headstrong-against-the-wise power struggles, such as the illiterate father wanting to take only back roads and use the sun as a compass but Reda the son wants to use a map to follow main routes. Another source of conflict is despite the father's advice, Reda befriends a scoundrel in Turkey who takes all their money. The movie has some funny parts and many touching parts. Occasionally there is a strange background noise during scenes of highway driving; I'm attributing it to low-quality film equipment. There are a couple of major plot points that are not quite overtly resolved; the viewer assumes the two pilgrims muddle out of the situation since they continue on their way. A better editor could have eliminated the many unnecessary scenes, such as Reda backing up the car in...
"Le Grand Voyage" works on several levels. It tells the story of an aging French North African man's determination to fulfill every Muslim's lifetime obligation to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. The film also looks at the great personal distance between the man and his youngest son, a teenager born in France and French through and through, with little interest in or understanding of his aged father's religion or commitment to the pilgrimage. Reda, the teenager, is drafted to drive his father to Mecca when an older brother loses his driver's license through a DUI incident. Reda, with lycee exams looming and passionate attachment to a French girlfriend, is anything but enthusiastic about making the trip with a parent he has little emotional connection. The pilgrimage begins with a series of spats that the father uses to establish his authority over the son and son employs to demonstrate his displeasure with being yanked out of his comfortable life as a European teenager...
Score yet another one for a superb film made in Hollywood NOT. This "road trip" film presents a generational gap that is never overcome and it is telling that the youngest son in the family is "chosen" to make the trip. Father and son do understand one another; they just can't really fully accept what the other is: one rooted in a traditional past, the other rooting in a non-traditional present. The filmmakers wisely show us some humorous moments which take the edge off the tension that exists between the main characters who are basically trapped in a car together. Apart from some minor things, the only scene we had issue with was when they were snowed in: given Dad's condition, the state of the car, and their predicament, simply showing them in a hospital as the next scene is too much a deus ex machine. Nonetheless, highly recommended.
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