Directed by Ismaël Ferroukhi, starring Nicolas Cazalé and Mohamed Majd.
A road movie with a difference, 'Le Grand Voyage' crosses not just continents and cultures, but also generation gaps and mindsets on its 3,000-mile journey with a father and son.
With exam worries and girlfriend problems, the last thing fiery teenager Reda (Cazalé) wants to hear is that he has to drive his elderly, Moroccan-born father (Majd) from their home in the south of France all the way to Mecca for his Hajj pilgrimage. The engine is barely running when the friction between the two begins as Reda tries to assert his independence in whatever way he can and his father attempts to control the youngster and their entire itinerary. But the two are more similar than either will be willing to admit and as they travel through the ups, downs, pitfalls and strokes of luck, each receives a greater understanding of the other and a way of life they feel removed from.
Winner of numerous awards, Ferroukhi's touching depiction of the father-son divide works across many genres: as a travelogue, a study of relationships where the problems are universal and an insight into a culture whose image has been sullied by extremists. Here the distance between Reda and his father is every bit as great as the one they're travelling and Ferroukhi fittingly resists breaking the speed limit as he lets the characters develop. What you'll find is that your allegiance will swing between the two as often as they cross borders and the performances of both are so unforced and natural that you have to remind yourself this isn't a documentary.
With their destination in sight, Ferroukhi loses a little of the goodwill he's built up by closing the film earlier than was necessary. There needed to be more scenes and another half-hour in Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia because you become so engrossed in what is effectively a trip back in time that you don't want it to finish - the sign of a good film, but this had the potential to be even better. The ending itself manages to capture both the epic (filming among the Mecca pilgrims) and the deeply personal, and feels completely right for what has gone before. You'll still have many questions about Reda and his father, but will feel all the wiser for having travelled so far in another man's shoes.
Fans of 'Y Tu Mamá También' and 'The Motorcycle Diaries' should book their tickets now.