It’s difficult to summarize ‘The Visitor.’ When you say it’s about a lonely college professor learning to play the drums, it sounds like lame. When you say it’s about immigrants and their plight, it sounds lame. Yet ‘The Visitor’ is anything but lame.
This film is written and directed by ‘The Wire’s’ Thomas McCarthy, and despite his inexperience in directing, this film will move you. The story follows widow Professor Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) as he ventures into Manhattan to his rarely used apartment to attend a conference there. When he gets to his apartment, he finds that a young couple (who happen to be illegal immigrants) has been living there without his knowledge for a few months. Vale allows the young couple to stay at his place and consequently gets involved with their immigrationn and deportation issues (damn the ICE!).
Now usually, heartfelt, human-rights-message movies put me to sleep. They usually are so preachy, it’s like being hit in the head over and over for the entire length of the movie. With ‘The Visitor,’ it’s not so much that way. Instead of shouting his cause from the rooftops, McCarthy chose to let human interactions tell the story. The characters are flawed, but decent people, people you could seeing living next door to you, people you could see yourself being friends with. And because McCarthy let’s the characters’ action speak for them, you will actually become emotionally involved with their plight.
Both the acting and direction are of award caliber. Richard Jenkins deserves a special mention here. You’ve probably seen him before, his IMDB page
is very impressive (my favorite is his role as the cynical, dead father on HBO’s
Six Feet Under). But he performance in ‘The Visitor’ is eerily
good. Even though this only his sophomore effort, McCarthy shows a maturity that lead you to believe he’s spent a lifetime behind the camera. ‘The Visitor’ will leave you wanting to see more from this promising director.
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.