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The Visitor [Blu-ray]
The Visitor
Actors: Michael Cumpsty, Richard Jenkins, Haaz Sleiman, Hiam Abbass
Director: Tom McCarthy
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
PG-13     2008     1hr 44min

Hailed as one of the year's most intriguing dramas (Claudia Puig, USA TODAY), The Visitor stars Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under) in a perfect performance (Lisa Schwarzbaum, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY) as Walter, a disaffected co...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Michael Cumpsty, Richard Jenkins, Haaz Sleiman, Hiam Abbass
Director: Tom McCarthy
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Love & Romance, Mystery & Suspense
Format: Blu-ray - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 10/07/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 44min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English
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Movie Reviews

Give me your tired, your poor...
R. Kyle | USA | 05/24/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Dr. Walter Vale's (Richard Jenkins) not interested in going to New York City to present a paper at a conference to help a fellow colleague and co-author. His own life takes precedence. Unfortunately, his dean doesn't see it that way.

When he arrives in New York, he discovers that someone's bathing in his tub. That would be Zainab (Danai Jekesai Gurira), a young Senegalese woman who is as surprised to see him as he is her. The person sleeping in one of his beds is Tarek (Haaz Sleiman), a young Syrian man who sublet Vale's neglected apartment from a person that Vale doesn't even know.

Vale cannot turn the pair out into the street, so he allows them to remain. As their acquaintance grows, Vale learns how to play the djembe from Tarek and also the plight of illegal aliens--particularly Muslim ones, post 9/11 after Tarek is erroneously arrested in the subway over jumping the turnstile.

One of the most heartbreaking scenes in this movie is when Vale takes Zaineb and Tarek's mother Moona (Hiam Abbass) to Staten Island. The women, who are both illegal, see the Statue of Liberty in all her glory. Zaineb relates how Tarek, who is now in detention, used to ride the ferry and jump up and down every time Lady Liberty came in sight pretending it was the first time to be in America.

Vale, who'd failed piano lessons four times, learns there's music in everyone's soul. If you can't play the piano, move on to another instrument until you find one whose music is in sync with your own rhythm.

My husband and I left "The Visitor" wishing there was more, hoping that there was a good outcome for the characters. In the lobby, we met a man who'd attended the Sundance Film Festival where "The Visitor" screened for the first time. He told us this was the only film that year that got a standing ovation. I understand why.

Rebecca Kyle, May 2008"
McCarthy's Small Film Shows Passion Can Be Found in the Most
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 04/21/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"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 Paradise 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."
Immigrant Detention: Another Point of View
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 07/08/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Just when it seems that film makers have sold out to the idea of blockbuster instant wealth, along comes the very quiet little film THE VISITOR, reassuring us that quality independent films are alive and well. Written and directed by actor Thomas McCarthy, whose only previous film in the role of writer/director was the incomparable THE STATION AGENT, this subdued little miracle of a film further examines the concept of isolated man searching for connection. The impact of this simple story of friendship and bonding stays with the viewer, permanently imprinted on our view of the global community.

Professor Walter Vale (Richard Jennings in a career making role) is an older man, widowed and greatly diminished by the death of his opera singer wife, bored with teaching the same class on Economics at Connecticut College for years while writing yet another book that holds no interest for him - a lonely, embittered man longing for some meaning in his life, trying to learn piano from an older teacher Barbara (Marion Seldes) without much success. His college sends him to New York to 'read' a paper he supposedly 'co-wrote' with a colleague and he reluctantly goes to the city for the 'task': he owns an apartment there that he uses only occasionally. Upon arrival he finds a young, terrified couple living in his apartment - two illegal immigrants, Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) from Syria and his girlfriend Zainab (Danai Jekesai Gurira) from Senegal. At first shocked by the couple, Walter soon feels their insecurities and invites them to stay. Tarek has been in America for three years, living in Michigan with his mother Mouna (Hiam Abbass), and has only been in New York a short while, following his dream to play drums and to be with his jewelry-making lover Zainab.

Over time Walter begins to absorb the joy of living Tarek displays while he is drumming and Tarek teaches Walter the art of the drum. Together they perform in parks while Zainab sells her jewelry in the streets. A minor incident in the subway results in Tarek's arrest and because his is an illegal immigrant, he is placed in a Detention Center in Queens. Walter is shocked at the cruelty of the police action, remains supportive to the devastated Zainab, and visits the distraught Tarek daily in the Detention Center, finding a lawyer to help the case and in every way being supportive of his new friend.

Mouna arrives form Michigan to see why her son has stopped calling her and Walter and Mouna become close out of mutual concern and love for Tarek and his depressing situation. Though they try to recover Tarek from detention, the 'methods and rules' of the government are against their efforts. The film ends with a sigh, not trying to resolve the insoluble problems of immigrant detention in this country, but instead focusing on the impact these four very beautiful people have made on each other.

McCarthy's concept and writing and direction are understated and all the more strong in the final impact of the film because of that approach. Each of the four main characters is outstanding: Jennings gives an Oscar worthy performance, the new face of Haaz Sleiman is a revelation, and the beautifully nuanced acting of Abbass and Gurira suggest strong careers in the making. The musical score by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek greatly enhances the film. This is a magically tender and beautifully sensitive film and deserves the attention of all who care about the global village and about the importance of independent filmmaking. Highest Recommendation. Grady Harp, July 08"
The Visitor Movie Review
thejoelmeister | | 04/04/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"With a highly inventive introduction to cheerfully mismatched characters, The Visitor is a daring look at the hopelessness of unfortunate immigration circumstances. Superbly acted and beautifully scored, the film doesn't back down from its touching subject matter and realistically tragic events, but instead infuses them with aptly-timed comic relief and the persuasive power of music and romance.

Bitter and bored college professor Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) travels to his New York apartment after being forced to attend a conference on global economization. Immediately he discovers a couple living in his home, and out of kindness and the appeal of company, he invites them to stay. Tarek Khalil (Haaz Sleiman) plays the drums, and soon gets the unsociable Walter to take up the instrument. Tarek's girlfriend Zainab is slower to acknowledge Walter's hospitality, but eventually warms to his presence.

When Tarek is arrested at the subway and taken to a detention center for illegal immigrants, Walter shows estimable concern for his newfound friend. Weighing his teaching job back in Connecticut against helping a man he's known for less than two weeks, Walter hires a lawyer to aid in Tarek's release. When Mrs. Khalil arrives to find out what's happened to her son, Walter finds himself rediscovering romance as well as what is truly important in his life.

Great care is taken to create sympathy for Tarek and Zainab, even though they are chiefly at fault for their uncertain positions. They've done nothing wrong in the eyes of the viewer, and its best that it stays that way - for the law they break is too complex to designate as morally right and wrong. The Visitor unflinchingly demonstrates the bleakness of their situation, and ensures that their story represents the likely majority of factual examples. The mocking sign "Know Your Rights" at the detention center foreshadows the unfortunate prejudices and consequences of an unsympathetic law. In the end, Walter's self-realization and inner revelations are the solace that must outshine his visitor's discouraging plights.

Richard Jenkins' acting is phenomenal, even though his role is to remove a wide array of emotions from his weathered face. Offering many scenes of comedy relief and the amusing rediscovery of long-abandoned romance, Jenkins delivers a wholly believable character that is relatable and easily liked. His distaste for his work and his discontent with life gives his eventual recognition of purpose even more of a cinematic edge. And being a mismatched companion and an unlikely friend lends to further depth and appeal. Though Tarek and Zainab are the first visitors and Mrs. Khalil after that - truly Walter is the visitor to their world - one he was previously completely oblivious to.

Part romance, part comedy and many parts drama, The Visitor presents moral conflict with the faceless evils of uncaring laws and heartfelt bonding between a weary, lonely man and a free-spirited musician. While the film slows in a few spots, the constant interjection of humor safely guarantees that audiences won't lose interest. The Visitor is an uncommonly sincere film that manages to mix harsh realism with crowd-pleasing entertainment.

- Mike Massie