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The Visitor
The Visitor
Actors: Richard Jenkins, Hazz Sleiman, Hiam Abbas
Director: Tom McCarthy
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, 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 ...  more »

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Movie Details

Actors: Richard Jenkins, Hazz Sleiman, Hiam Abbas
Director: Tom McCarthy
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Love & Romance, Mystery & Suspense
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
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,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 1
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English
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Member Movie Reviews

Reviewed on 9/8/2018...
I was loving this movie by the way different nationalities came together and got along!!! And then there was the terrible ending that dropped it from a 5/5 to a 3/5 rating...
1 of 4 member(s) found this review helpful.
Michel D. (michelann) from WALNUT GROVE, MO
Reviewed on 4/9/2018...
Yet another reason to love Richard Jenkins! His previous superior acting quality has been praised in such films as The Shape of Water, Eat Pray Love, and Kong: Skull Island as well as lots of television roles like Six Feet Under and Olive Kitteridge. Most of his roles have been character actors and when on screen he cannot be ignored! This starring role sees Jenkins as a man who finds a new interest in life, the Djembe which is an African drum.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Sharon F. (Shar) from AVON PARK, FL
Reviewed on 9/2/2012...
Nice, heartwarming video about how it is for millions of people in this country. I foundn it a little slow at times, with unnecessary scenes. Well acted though.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Darlene N. (Darlene67) from HARRODSBURG, KY
Reviewed on 10/24/2011...
This is a good movie, However I thought it was slow at times and did not like the ending of the movie. It is a good clean movie worth watching though.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.

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"