Old 12-31-2008, 09:05 PM
The Visitor

The Visitor (2008)

Imagine you come back to your apartment after a vacation and discover that somebody has been living there while you were gone. What do you do? Do you immediately throw them out? Call the police? Or start a relationship that will come to mean more than anything currently happening in your life?

Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) is a teacher living in Connecticut who is asked to go to New York and give a presentation at a convention on a paper that he co-authored. Upon returning to his old apartment in New York, he discovers that two people, Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and Zainab (Danai Jekesai Gurira), have been living there while he was gone. At first there is tension, but once Tarek and Zainab realize that there has been a mistake, they agree to leave.

When Walter realizes that they have nowhere to go, he agrees to let them stay for awhile. During their stay, Tarek strikes up a special relationship with Walter, even teaching him how to play the drum, but when Tarek is arrested in the subway for a simple misunderstanding, Walter finds out that Tarek and Zainab are illegal immigrants. Walter then makes it his mission to free Tarek.

This little film packed quite an emotional punch. It's another one of those movies that critics have been raving about for several months now and I'm glad to say that that praise is well deserved. What makes it so special is that, not only is the story really well told and engaging, but the performances felt so natural throughout the entire film. Not one of the actors is over the top, but instead deliver subtle performances that hit all the right notes.

The role of Walter could have easily been played as a flat, lifeless human being that doesn't have much going for him at this point in his life, but Richard Jenkins gives him just the right amount of emotion to show us that he has a longing for a relationship with someone special. With the recent loss of his wife, Walter has become kind of unsocial, talking with people only when he needs to. He ends up finding that special relationship in the least likely of places.

The friendships he forms with Tarek and Zainab are the most significant thing to happen to Walter in a long time. Being the generous, selfless, giving person that he is, Walter is able to make that connection with complete strangers faster than he can make it with his co-workers because he feels that he has more in common with these free spirits than he does with the teachers he sees every day.

One of the most touching scenes is when Tarek begins giving Walter drum lessons. It is in this scene that we begin to see Walter break away from his everyday life and start to be the person he wants to be. The drum theme is returned to a few times throughout the movie and shows us just how much a simple thing like the beat of a drum can affect a person's life.

This movie is truly about relationships and the way that they can affect our lives. Walter is given a new outlook on life through his relationship with Tarek and when Tarek is arrested, Tarek and Zainab are shown the lengths to which some people will go to save their friends, even if they've only know them a short time. When Tarek's mother, Mouna (Hiam Abbass), shows up, we are given the possibility of another relationship forming between her and Walter, except this relationship has the potential to be something more.

"The Visitor" was written and directed by Thomas McCarthy whose only previous writing/directing credit is "The Station Agent" from 2003. I have yet to see that film, but I've heard very good things about it. I was surprised to learn that McCarthy is mainly an actor. He has appeared in many big films including "Flags of Our Fathers," Syriana," and "Good Night, and Good Luck." But with two critically acclaimed writing/directing credits under his belt, it looks like he has a great future ahead of him in a new field. 3.5/4 stars.
Reply With Quote


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump