The Visitor

"Very Good"

The Visitor Review


The post-9/11 U.S. has always seemed like a grieving widow waiting for the other fatalistic shoe to drop. Part of this comes from a government selling fear as the foundation for its continued power. The other stems from the media's mindless grind of less-than-soothing imagery. Yet what many citizens fail to understand is that people more than politics are affected by our nervous kneejerk reactions. Such a sentiment forms the basis of Thomas McCarthy's intriguing new film, The Visitor.

For Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins), existence is a stifled sleepwalk of commitments and complaints. He hates teaching. He hates faculty politics. He especially hates the lonely life he leads as a widower. His wife long dead, Vale just can't find a purpose. Forced to travel from his new home in Connecticut to his old apartment in New York City to present a paper, he discovers two strangers living there. As illegals, Arab Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and African Zainab (Danai Jekesai Gurira) have no real place to go, so Vale reluctantly lets them stay. When the Syrian Tarek is wrongfully arrested and detained, our quiet professor becomes his champion. The arrival of Tarek's mother (Hiam Abbass) from Michigan makes matters more complicated.

While it takes a while to get into its groove, The Visitor ends up a very engaging social commentary. It's a movie that offers big ideas in the smallest ways possible. It's almost as if McCarthy contemplated all the important issues framing our current world and the War on Terror and decided to take the most subtle and suggestive path toward explaining them. His wonderful The Station Agent offered the same approach -- patient, deliberate, contemplative. As it builds, allowing minor moments to substitute for grandiose pronouncements, we can literally see McCarthy's premeditation.

Of course, he requires a cast to deliver his restraint with the necessary amount of individual insight. While he makes for an unusual lead, Jenkins is very good as Vale. He has to walk a very thin line between being inert and engaging. Even worse, he's saddled with a strange first act epiphany in which he decides to takes lessons on a tablah-type drum from Tarek. Still, he settles in nicely, using his educated outsider's deliberate white male beats to bring a level of honesty and openness to the role. As the accidental squatters, Sleiman and Gurira initially have a too-beautiful, Benetton quality to their presence. But once we get to know them, and their struggles to gain acceptance in an increasingly suspect society, the necessary nuances appear.

Perhaps the most compelling character is reserved for the last act. As Tarek's mother Mouna, Abbass is brilliant, never overplaying the stoic immigrant part. She comes across as thoughtful and levelheaded, wounded but still able to walk proudly among the people who would gladly pigeonhole her because of her race. She flawlessly represents the suppressed passions this movie thrives on. While McCarthy is busy playing everything close to the vest, Abbass is letting us peek inside said garment.

Unfortunately, The Visitor may not sit well with either side of the still-simmering argument. For the more liberal-minded, the film will be too passive. It doesn't stand up and shout for its positions. On the other hand, it paints all newcomers to our land as innocents who would never contemplate an act of violence for an ambiguous agenda. Reality has clearly revised that naïve notion. While it's clear where McCarthy's ethics lie, the lack of brow-beating bombast will confuse many. The Visitor is not really a film you enjoy, per se. It's more like a feeling you get used to before finally accepting.

Just visiting.



The Visitor

Facts and Figures

Run time: 104 mins

In Theaters: Friday 4th July 2008

Box Office USA: $9.2M

Box Office Worldwide: $9.2M

Distributed by: Overture Films

Production compaines: Groundswell Productions, Next Wednesday Productions, Participant Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 103 Rotten: 13

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Prof. Walter Vale, Haaz Sleiman as Tarek Khalil, as Zainab, Hiam Abbass as Mouna Khalil, as Barbara, Maggie Moore as Karen, as Jacob, Michael Cumpsty as Charles, Bill McHenry as Darin, Tzahi Moskovitz as Zev

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.