Reda and his father are driving to Mecca. The father, a Moroccan settled in France, is solemnly making the haj before he’s too old. Reda is irreligious, and resents his father’s demands – not least because he’s had to miss his college finals. Reda has little in the way of compensation. He desperately misses his girlfriend, but his father – we never learn his name – throws away his mobile phone. Neither will his father allow stops in the cities en route – they aren’t tourists, he says. Neither understands the other, and they have little to say.
But they have a lot to learn and Le Grand Voyage is about the travellers’ internal journeys – like any good road movie. Reda comes to respect his father’s intuitive understanding of people and situations, and, after they meet groups of pilgrims, Islam as mutually inclusive and caring. The father in turn sees that Reda is a good, well-meaning person.
Director Ferroukhi’s real concern – the distance between first-generation migrants and their assimilated children – is ambitious and serious. Yet in the end, he cops out. The final scenes are superbly shot and acted but, though emotionally charged, they neither offer resolution nor raise interesting questions – and leave his theme stone dead.