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

New Movies

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

War Dogs Movie Review

War Dogs Movie Review

Based on a rather astounding true story, this comedy-drama centres on two stoners who landed...

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

Advertisement
The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

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.