The Visitor



Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 90%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 84%
IMDb Rating 7.6 10 43330

Plot summary

October 07, 2022 at 07:28 PM


Tom McCarthy

Top cast

Richard Jenkins as Walter
Hiam Abbass as Mouna
Richard Kind as Jacob
Danai Gurira as Zainab
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
955.36 MB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 43 min
P/S ...
1.91 GB
English 5.1
23.976 fps
1 hr 43 min
P/S ...

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Chris Knipp 9 / 10

A sad awakening

Much of the art of the writer-director and cast of 'The Visitor' resides in the fact that nobody gets in the way of the important story the film tells, which is essentially a parable. What might happen, it seems to ask, if average white middle-class Americans became truly sensitive to the horrific plight of many foreigners in this county? The strength of The Visitor' is that the strong feelings it awakens lead to some serious thoughts.

Our average guy is an intelligent professional who's tellingly cut off from the rest of the world, even what's immediately around him. Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) is a widowed professor like Dennis Quaid's character in the much inferior 'Smart People'--not an egocentric bore like the latter, however, but an essentially decent person. Walter is impeccably dressed, polite to everyone, but reserved and distant. Walter, as he admits later, is just "pretending." He's dried up; has ceased to be fully alive. He lives alone in Connecticut where he teaches, and is detached toward students and colleagues alike. Remarkably, since he still seems to have a reputation, he has not revised his course on global economics for fifteen years. He's published books and claims he's finishing another but isn't really working on anything. He dabbles with piano lessons, in honor of his late wife, a celebrated pianist, but that isn't going anywhere; he keeps firing teachers.

Walter has recently agreed to be listed as co-author of a paper another teacher wrote. When the real author can't read the paper at an NYU conference, he has to go. That takes him back to a New York apartment he's left unoccupied for some time--and when he enters it and discovers its been illegally rented to a young Syrian man and his Senegalese girlfriend, his life is changed.

The uninvited occupants are Tarik Khalil (Haaz Sleiman), a drummer who's in a small jazz band and also likes to jam in the park, and Zainab (Danai Jekesai Gurira), who makes original jewelry she sells on the street. They immediately gather their possessions to move out, but Walter takes pity on them and lets them stay provisionally. Obviously Walter could use some excitement. The couple are focused, energetic, alive, radiant with hope--all Walter has ceased to be. Tarik is extremely outgoing, warm, friendly to Walter. His drumming immediately engages Walter and before long the uptight professor is trying his hand at it. Zainab however is cautious and fearful. For good reason, as it turns out, since neither she nor Tarik is in this country legally.

What happens later is heart-wrenching not only for the young couple but for Walter, and perhaps for viewers, some of whom may identify with the American professor, others with the two outsiders, who have so much to offer yet aren't wanted here. Walter becomes deeply involved, to the extent of a burgeoning relationship with Tarik's widowed mother Mouna (Hiam Abbas), and he does the best he can, but he ends up angry and helpless.

The US has only 5% of the world's population but 25% of the world's prisoners and the highest incarceration rate of any country. This is part of the story told here, because many would-be immigrants in the US are in long-term open-ended detention, another scandal and horror perpetrated in America of which 'The Visitor' provides a haunting, vivid glimpse. The film conveys a clear sense of the insensitivity and blind arbitrariness of a US immigration system that grinds up lives rapidly and heedlessly behind unmarked walls.

Todd McCarthy's first film, 'The Station Agent,' was an accomplished and well-received indie artifact, quirky and cute. It was pitch-perfect in its way, but a little fey. This time he's done something completely different: 'The Visitor' by clear implication takes a pretty strong, if generalized, stand on immigration issues; speaks out not for an oddball few but for multitudes of ordinary people, and does so forcefully. Yet it's not preachy. Its narrative follows a course that's seemingly obvious but keeps grabbing you just the same.

There are many immigration stories, often lengthy, intricate, and epic. This one has the simplicity and occasional sketchiness of a short story. There is admirable restraint in that. What's also significantly different from many citizenship sagas is the way 'The Visitor' draws an American of privilege into the picture as more than a mere observer. This has a kind of Brechtian effect for the American viewer. This isn't "us." But suppose it were "us"? It was"us"--was our ancestors, our parents or grandparents. How many degrees of separation are we hiding behind?

One main way the film avoids interfering with its story is that the experienced Richard Jenkins and the three other principal actors, Haaz Sleiman, Hiam Abbas, and Danai Jekesai Gurira never overdo or underplay. They just seem like they're being themselves, which is an actor's triumph but also a director's. And McCarthy is also the writer. The whole film is an admirable illustration of the maxim Less is more. McCarthy and his cast make it all look easy--and that's not easy.

Reviewed by EUyeshima 9 / 10

McCarthy's Small Film Shows Passion Can Be Found in the Most Unexpected Places

A genuinely unexpected gem. As he proved with his first film as a director and screenwriter, 2003's "The Station Agent", Thomas McCarthy knows how to convey the fine line between solitude and loneliness in his characters' lives with an emotional preciseness that doesn't call attention to itself. It's not surprising that McCarthy is an actor because he's able to capture the very subtle nuances in behavior in actors that make his work feel like Edward Hopper paintings come to life. As a result, you pay attention to a simple gesture, a passing glance, a resigned sigh. This time, his protagonist is Walter Vale, an enervated, middle-aged economics professor at a Connecticut college. Widowed and wholly lacking in professional motivation, he begrudgingly accepts an assignment to go to an academic conference at NYU and present a paper on globalization he really didn't write.

Coming back to a Greenwich Village flat he rarely uses, he is surprised to find a couple living there. Not squatters but unfortunate victims of a rental scam, they turn out to be illegal aliens, a Syrian percussionist named Tarek and his girlfriend Zainab, a Senegalese who makes and sells handcrafted jewelry. As withdrawn from life as Walter is, he slowly finds himself bonding with the couple and lets them stay indefinitely. Zainab is slow to trust Walter, but Tarek and Walter become close over a mutual love of African drums. As his wife was a famous classical pianist, Walter had been futilely attempting to find musical inspiration since her death. However, just as this charming tale of world harmony plays out, it comes back to harsh reality when Tarek is arrested and taken to a detention center in Queens for deportation. What McCarthy does from this point forward is show how sadly restrictive the post-9/11 environment has made immigration laws and how there is no recourse to be found under the constant surveillance of a bureaucratic government protected by the latitude of the Patriot Act.

None of this is hit over our heads with a politically motivated sledgehammer. Far from such polemics, the story singularly focuses on Walter's emergence of purpose in helping Tarek. When Tarek's mother Mouna arrives from Detroit, McCarthy adeptly shows how Walter's closeness to Tarek translates without condition to her. It's a moving transformation of a formerly lonely man finding intimacy in the most unlikely situation. In a once-in-a-lifetime role, character actor Richard Jenkins brings heart and soul to Walter in the most economical manner. Best known as the ghostly father in HBO's "Six Feet Under", he has worked steadily in films for three decades, his most memorable turn being the gay FBI agent high on heroin in David O. Russell's "Flirting with Disaster". With his constant look of resignation on the verge of revelation, Jenkins gives a wondrously poignant, often dryly funny performance that deepens as the story evolves.

Haaz Sleiman and Danai Gurira are terrifically winning as Tarek and Zainab, and they make their bonding with Walter more than credible. As Mouna, Hiam Abbass is no stranger to persevering maternal roles as she brought her particular brand of strength to Hany-Abu Assad's controversial "Palestine Now" and Eran Riklis' family dramedy, "The Syrian Bride". In response to Walter's fumbling overtures, she affectingly conveys her character's resolute stillness and gradual blossoming. There are brief cameos by comic actor Richard Kind as Walter's unctuous neighbor, Deborah Rush as a wealthy and ignorant customer of Zainab's, and Broadway legend Marian Seldes as Walter's failed piano teacher. At first, I thought the film's title was blandly generic in describing those who are here from other lands, but I realize now that the visitor is really Walter as he discovers his soul. The last shot is memorable and captures the fury of his passion with potent force. Strongly recommended.

Reviewed by Movie-Jay 10 / 10

Sensitive & Thoughtful Film

Thomas McCarthy's 2nd film after the wonderful "Station Agent" is equally good, if not better. I can't recommend Richard Jenkins' performance any higher here. He plays a widowed professor who is drifting through life rather aimlessly until he visits his New York apartment and finds there are two people squatting there. I won't give away anything else, except to say that it'll be a shame if this film flies under the radar. Jenkins is a character actor that everyone recognizes, but that few of us know. Here he occupies the first third of the film practically alone, and reminds us in moments of the Jack Nicholson character from "About Schmidt" with his dry humor that is on display for his crabby piano teacher.

Don't you just love watching an actor up there alone who keeps you spellbound in a subtle way? That's how this movie starts, and gradually we come to meet the couple in Jenkins' apartment, and the mother of one of them. The movie flows economically and with much care, but by the end it creeps up on us and makes us feel glad along the way as well as making us pause and reflect on the state of our world.

Lovely, lovely movie.

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