The Visitor

2009-10-19 16:42
 
The Visitor

What it's about:

Richard Jenkins stars as economics professor Walter Vale, a widower who is terribly bored and plods through his dull life without any emotional connections. This changes when he is required to travel to New York for an economics conference, and encounters a Senegalese woman having a bath in his rarely used flat. As it turns out, the woman, Zainab (Danai Jekesai Gurira) and her boyfriend, Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) have rented Walter's apartment from an unknown man. After kicking the couple out, Walter's irritation gives way to a flicker of compassion and he invites them to live with him.


What we thought:

Set in post-9/11 United States, The Visitor could easily have become a self-righteous, preachy film about illegal immigration or the political influences underlying unjust imprisonment. Instead, director Tom McCarthy has focused on the empathetic, tender friendship unfurling between Walter, Zainab and Tarek.

Jenkin's performance of the introverted Walter is sensitive and satisfying, and Walter's profound inner transformation is eloquently performed. The story of this man, learning to live again through discovering such unlikely relationships, is extraordinarily moving.

Tarek is completely likeable as the friendly drummer who teaches Walter to connect with, and create, music. Unfortunately, he carries the same carefree energy to the detention centre for illegal immigrants where he is placed after a misunderstanding, and fails to portray misery or outrage at the sheer injustice being played out around him.

Still, Tarek's imprisonment is a real turning point in the film as Walter's helplessness and unselfish compassion really come to the fore. He has nothing to gain from his relationship with his detained friend, but he hires an immigration lawyer and reassures Tarek and Zainab that everything will work out. Several days later Tarek's mother, Mouna (Hiam Abbas) appears unexpectedly from Detroit because she has not heard from her son in a few days. Walter becomes even more drawn in as a tender romance flourishes between the pair and his emotions spiral into the unknown. All of this add up to create a very commanding and compelling character in Walter.

The Visitor is a touching film, portraying the journey of strangers from such different spectrums of life, drawn to one another and establishing undeniable connections. A great boon for McCarthy is that the film touches on the politics of migration without allowing controversy to reign supreme. It's an in-depth character study with the subtleties of each individual brought forward and working harmoniously to move the laid-back story along.


Richard Jenkins pulls off an Oscar-worthy performance as a lonely man who finds strangers have moved into his apartment.

Renny 2009/10/20 11:44 AM
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Watched it about a year ago & enjoyed it thoroughly. Highly recommended, nice and different.
Brenden 2009/12/01 2:03 PM
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This looks like a good movie...
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