Monday, February 9, 2009

The Visitor

I wanted to see The Visitor when I first saw the trailer but it was early in the year and I forgot about it…until Oscar nominations came out and Richard Jenkins was nominated for best actor. I promptly added the film to my Netflix and watched it last night.

The Visitor is the tale of Walter Vale, a professor of economics who has effectively checked out of life. Walter teaches one class, co-authored a paper he had nothing to do with, has gone through 5 piano teachers, and basically avoids any and all personal contact above and beyond the bare minimum. However, Walter’s whole life changes when he is forced to present the paper he co-authored in New York; when Walter returns to the apartment he and his wife shared before her death he finds it occupied by a young immigrant couple – Tarek & Zainab who were leased the apartment illegally. Unable to bear the thought of leaving the couple on the street Walter allows them to stay with him until they make other arrangements and forms a friendship with Tarek that changes his life. Unfortunately for Tarek his illegal status is soon found out and he is taken into custody.

I think that Richard Jenkins gave a fabulous performance in this movie, I am not sure that it is the best male performance of the year but it is definitely a wonderful, moving performance in a very compelling film. Walter is a character that goes from being a shell of a person to one with passion and vibrancy and Jenkins really brings this to life. I am not sad that Jenkins was nominated for an Oscar.

I loved The Visitor, I felt that it is a great character study but it also brings to light the unfortunate side of the immigration issue. I’ve never really had feelings one way or another on illegal immigration but watching Tarek appeal to Walter from inside detention did break my heart a little bit. Thomas McCarthy did a great job presenting The Visitor as both an engaging and entertaining character piece without forgetting that it is a movie with something to say.

Director & Writer: Thomas McCarthy
Walter Vale: Richard Jenkins
Tarek Khalil: Haaz Sleiman
Zainab: Danai Gurira
Mouna Khalil: Hiam Abbass
Jacob: Richard Kind

Prof. Walter Vale: You can't just take people away like that. Do you hear me? He was a good man, a good person. It's not fair! We are not just helpless children! He had a life! Do you hear me? I mean, do you hear me? What's the matter with you?

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