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The Visitor

no, don't just hold your hand above the drum...you have to strike the drum for it to make a sound...


Richard Jenkins, Haaz Sleiman, Hiam Abbass

Mouna: Walter, what would you do if you didn’t teach?
Walter: I don’t know…
Mouna: It’s kind of exciting not to know…

Walter (Jenkins) is a lonely professor who goes to New York for an academic conference.  He is going to stay in the apartment he has there, but when he arrives, he finds that it has been illegally rented to some immigrants, Tarek (Sleiman) and Zainab (Danai Jekesai Gurira).  He allows them to stay for a while as they look for anothe place to live.  Just as he and Tarek are becoming good friends, Tarek is arrested in the subway and discovered to be an illegal immigrant.

This is a quiet movie about a quiet man, though eventually Walter’s spirit (both joyous and angry sides of it) starts to come to the surface as he allows himself to become attached to these people that have been thrown into his life.  Everybody is good in the movie, but Richard Jenkins (playing a character somewhat similar to the one Dennis Quaid played in the last movie I reviewed) really captures his character perfectly.

The movie borderlines on becoming somewhat heavy handed near the end as it tells its story, but fortunately it pulls back and never loses credibility.  When dealing with a subject like illegal immigration and deportation, there’s no real easy answers or predictability, and the movie follows suit.

I enjoyed the musical aspect in this movie a lot.  We first see Walter taking a piano lesson, but then firing his teacher.  Apparently he’s fired many other before, and we find out later that his late wife was an accomplished pianist.  It seems he won’t let himself commit to learning to play because the memories are too difficult…or the teachers don’t teach the way his wife did.  But then Tarek enters his life, playing the Djembe, and gives Walter an outlet to express himself through music, as well as a way to put himself back out there into society by participating in a drum circle in the park.

I can’t say I find the subject matter here particularly compelling, but I can’t imagine another movie making it more interesting or watchable than this one.  I can’t say that I thought it was a great movie, but it was very good and I’d recommend it.

10 – 2.1 for me not being overly involved in the subject matter + .3 for good performances – .6 for a few dull moments that seemed extraneous = 7.6