Ismael Ferroukhi (director)
31 January 2020 (released)
31 January 2020
Originally released in 2005 Le Grand Tour was at the time seen as something of a breakthrough in its depiction of Islam socially and within a family, and its generational relevance.
The father (Mohamed Majd) is a devout Muslim and preparing to go on the Hajj to Mecca as every Muslim is expected to do at least once in their lifetime. He won’t fly so he was due to be driven by his one of his sons from France through Europe and the east to Saudi Arabia. However an injury puts him out so his other son Reda (Nicolas Cazalé) is called upon to take him.
This goes down like a lead balloon as he is studying for his exams, in a developing relationship with a woman and is nowhere as devout as his father. With a very long drive, in a wreck of a car and with little in common the outlook is not promising. And on cue the differences start appear.
As custom decrees the time for prayer his father wants to pray at Italian border crossing but dissuaded by his son he prays in a layby. Reda is in contact with his girlfriend via his mobile until dad pinches it and throws it in a bin, that he freely admits to doing when asked and they are 300 km for it.
At this point the sentiment is very much biased towards Reda but gradually it dawns that the old man may be difficult but he is experienced and has a wealth of street smarts that were hitherto unknown as he shows himself to be a tough negotiator on the streets hustling for a decent exchange rate for his cash.
Equally we see how green Reda is when they pick a friendly Turk who gets them through the Turkish border, invites them to his home, shows them the sights of Istanbul, joins their pilgrimage, gets him drunk and nearly wrecks the journey. Dad is of course livid as he could see it coming but the journey continues on a much-reduced budget.
As they journey through various countries towards Mecca so they join and meet other pilgrims from all over the world. It’s a fantastic communal, and moving, sequence as the pilgrims introduce themselves. And with Reda taking more of an interest and his father explaining the meaning of the pilgrimage they start to have some understanding of each other.
It's an age-old generational story that doesn’t have much in way of surprise but has enduringly poignant moments that will break hearts. The main problem is that while the generational conflict and attitudes are interesting and worthy of discussion, the conduits of Reda and his father aren’t.
The actors are fine they just aren’t that engaging as characters and so dulls the meat of the story. What we do get from writer and director Ismael Ferroukhi is Mecca (It was the first film ever to be shot in the city.) from the pilgrims’ point of view, and what it means to go for the Hajj. There are some remarkable scenes that draw the viewer in to wonder at the sheer size of the crowds, the confusion and dedication, as they make their way to the Kaaba.
In cinemas from 31 January and on demand from 3rd February.