Running Length: 113 minutes
Cast: Richard Jenkins, Hiam Abbass, Haaz Sleiman, Danai Gurira
Director: Tom McCarthy
Screenplay: Tom McCarthy
Cinematography: Oliver Bokelberg
Four or five years ago a little film called The Station Agent charmed its way into my heart. I have been waiting since then to see what, if anything, director Tom McCarthy would come up with next. The Visitor is an excellent follow up and gives a rare leading role to character actor Richard Jenkins.
Walter Vale is a professor at a Connecticut college, and has pretty much given up trying since the death of his pianist wife. Under duress he agrees to go to New York and present a paper he co-authored. Upon arriving at his little used NYC apartment, he discovers two illegal immigrants living there. Shocked, he initially kicks them out, but then relents and asks them to stay as long as they need to find a new place. And thus begins Walter’s transformation from a man barely living, to a man fully embracing all that life has to offer.
When Tarek is arrested and sent to a detention centre of illegal aliens, Walter does everything he can to help him avoid deportation. The arrival of his beautiful mother from Syria further complicates matters, but forces Walter to open up further and consider the possibility of loving again. While there is a message here about the state of US immigration law, it is not heavy handed and plays out organically as a part of the larger story. And this is not a message movie; it is a beautifully crafted character journey, beautifully played by an actor who has given himself entirely to the part he is playing.