10 years ago came out a little indie film whose biggest shock was having as lead actor the great Richard Jenkins, best known as a character actor in several projects through the years, from Coen brothers films to "Six Feet Under". And this surprising jump to the front row managed to be a successful one, he got what I thought it was impossible: Oscar nomination as Best Actor in a Leading Role. Certainly one of the greatest performances of all time but somewhat overlooked by audiences. And the movie was beyond great, it was a true spectacle of emotions, reality, relevance and certainty. Directed by Tom McCarthy right after the delicate and brilliant "The Station Agent" and light years from his magnificent "Spotlight", "The Visitor" is a true piece of cinema result of McCarthy's visit to the Middle East which widened his view on a different culture and made him aware of the obstacles foreign Muslims living in U.S. faced in the years that followed 9/11. A whole decade later and this little film feels more relevant now than it was back in 2007. It just needs to be rediscovered at this exact moment. Jenkins plays Walter Vale, a college teacher assigned to present a work in New York, something he isn't much proud of since he only co-authored the piece. A lonely, widowed man that seems to avoid the company of others, just trying to learn to play the piano in order to remember his deceased wife (a piano expertise). There he goes to the city, to an apartment of his that he barely visits and discovers that some strangers are in there, a Muslim couple, Tarek and Zainab (played by Haaz Sleiman and Danai Gurira). Even though the estrangement is the main thing for all the three people involved, Walter pity the couple's situation and allows them to stay with him. And as someone who barely gets out of his uncommunicative and protected shell, Walter turns to appreciate more the ones around here. He sees Tarek's drum and tries to play it. Next thing he knows, he's fully immersed in learning how to play it and develops a closer bond with the couple. Instead of walls, he makes bridges and that reflects in a positive way. Walter gets the chance to see life through a more positive and wider perspective, which fills him with joy, sincerity, making a better human being - not that he wasn't before, he was just trapped in himself without much caring for others. And yet we're not about talking those corny films that seem to answer about the questions of life, and we're not talking about a rich white man who discovers the real pleasures of life to obtain true happiness. "The Visitor" is about the possibilities one doesn't see but with minor reluctance allows this one to see and turn things better for everyone. Walter Vale's enlightenment comes not as Hollywood feels the need to show us; it feels genuine, day after day, knowing his "tenants" and seeing that they're people like him despite the cultural differences, religion and values. They're on the same roof and there's respect between all parts. Tarek and Walter playing drums on Central Park along with other players and a big crowd watching their performances has become one of the most significant sequences I've ever seen. A deep connection was formed between those two guys and it's when we're able to see the usually somber and distant Walter displaying a true sense of joy. But "The Visitor" isn't just about the surprising good side of events, it's also about a reality that changes the whole setting and if Walter never thought of those aspects before, now he got completely trapped by it: the post-modern world after 9/11. Without revealing much, Tarek is arrested and it's time to Walter to find ways to help his new friend who fears the possibility of being deported since he and his wife are illegal in the country. Then comes another contact to the teacher, Tarek's mom (the great Hiam Abbass), who learns of the whole situation and spends some time with Walter while both fight to release Tarek from jail. With that, Walter comes to fully observe the problems simple people face while trying to live their lives, without hurting anyone, and in a place that not only is different from their ideals and culture but it's one place that allows them to live in better conditions they had in their homeland. In 2007, this film was just a way to allow viewers to see how important foreign culture and presence in U.S. were; now, in our current time of a leader's wishes to avoid their entrance because the awful acts of a loud minority it feels more relevant and thought-provoking. It's hard not to talk about politics when it comes to films, specially this one, because that's just life. Politics is life and it molds our way of life even when we think we're so far from it. Walter embraces the unknown, the different and finds a purpose to his gray way of living. I guess this is a way of teaching us on how to view the world around us: to embrace the different view, to see that no way of life is better than the other but it's just a variant that works. It touches us into our core. McCarthy gets true-to-life and outstanding performances from his cast, but it's Jenkins who gets the spotlight. His Walter is a nuanced character that transforms before our eyes without that sentimental changing must films tend to do. We feel that he really learns something with that journey. And we learn it as well. 10/10
A lonely old man, who lost his wife always pretend to be busy for work. One day he goes on a business trip to New York and meets a young couple. The man and the couple accidentally live in a house together. A young man loves to play music and tell the old man how to play kindly. The old man gradually comes to open his heart to the couple. However, the couple are immigrants and they actually live in New York illegally so they are taken by police. The old man tries to make the couple be free and goes to a detention house to meet them every day.This is a human drama and was released in 2007 in America. The director is Thomas McCarthy, who is an American director. Also, Richard Jenkins played the role of leading actor for the first time in this movie. I was so impressed by the movie, especially by the part of the kindness of the couple. Many innocent people like them are taken because of racial problems. We have to think the problem more seriously by watching this movie.
It's harder and harder each day for immigrants in the United States. It's even harder if your an immigrant from Syria after 9/11, due to the prejudice security system portrayed in "The Visitor." Richard Jenkins gives a quietly moving performance as Walter, a lonely college professor who finds a married immigrant couple living in his apartment. The immigrants, Tarek and Zainab form close relationships with Walter, who through Tarek and Zainab opens up and shines personality. Writer/director Thomas McCarthy proves you don't need big budgets to calculate the needs of a rich human drama that sneaks up and wipes the floor from under you without your expectation. McCarthy could have gone all preachy and make MSNBC get nuts over a seemingly pro-minority indie flick while simultaneously getting Fox News's panties in a bunch. McCarthy makes no statements. His rich writing executes only superb dramatic conflicts that result in some of the most exuberant chronicles of relationships and emotions. The further the story progresses, the more and more interested and invested we are in the authentic storytelling that results in a mesmerizing ending shot full of symbolism. The shots of immigrant life McCarthy throws at you will tackle your beliefs of immigration before seeing this film. He gives you a lot to think about but even more to feel. Richard Jenkins absorbs every ounce of soul in his performance. The supporting cast helps Jenkins' performance thrive while helping McCarthy prove he's one of the most insightful independent filmmakers of our time.
I had heard so much about this film being excellent that I was skeptical. But in this instance, this film lived up to the hype. The acting is excellent. The story is so believable and slice of life. Richard Jenkins is always a pleasure to watch. He plays Walter with the finesse and sublime precision that only he could. I actually was surprised more so by the other actors. Danai Gurira stars in one of my favorite shows, The Walking Dead. Seeing Danai in another role made me appreciate her all the more. She and Haaz Sleiman are actually what give this film heart and seeing their characters adjust to Walter. The friendship between Tarek and Walter is the catalyst for the film. But Hiam Abbass steals the movie from everyone. No idea why I had never heard of her. But her "Mouna" with all the nuances of a mother fearing for her son is what everyone should have been talking about. This movie was a rare occasion when I was left wanting to know more and could have watched another 30 mins to see what happens next for these characters.