Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Visitor (2007)

Mouna (Hian Abbass): Which one is she?
Walter (Richard Jenkins): The one closest to us.
Mouna: The black one? That is Zainab? She’s very black.

Walter: Tariq is teaching me the drum.
Mouna: How is that going?
Walter: Well, I sound a lot better when he’s playing with me.

At a glance: Richard Jenkins understated performance as a grieving husband who reaches out to casual acquaintances in a time of need touches on larger, global issues: immigration law, fear of terrorism, and the need for solidarity amongst peoples of varying backgrounds

Walter (Richard Jenkins), a stodgy professor who is caught within the web of his own grief, has a life-changing experience when he inadvertently becomes involved with a young couple from Syria/ Senegal, both recently arrived in New York. When their life changes for the worst, he tries to help right the wrongs. It starts as a redemption story for a grieving man, and even on those modest terms, it is fantastic, then suddenly the story becomes about so much more: an examination of how the arbitrary boundaries of countries are used to validate atrocities of justice done to innocent people. I was reminded of another, larger idea when watching this film: although the leaders and extremists in various cultures (western and eastern) tend to stress the differences between people and their ideologies, at the heart of it, whether you wear a kufi or a cowboy hat, you basically want and need the same things: food, shelter, and safety for your family, friends and neighbors. Miraculously, writer/director Tom McCarthy is able to present these ideas within the framework of a movie that gently and poetically portrays the bonds of love that bind us. Quiet, powerful, small, and beautiful. Rating: 3.5 of 4

"The beautifully restrained performance by [Richard] Jenkins is the anchor of a film built around complex characters and quiet moments."
- Robert Davis (Paste Magazine)

"Cuts across one of the West's most contentious political issues without ever getting political. And it features a terrific lead performance from Jenkins."
- Rich Cline (Film Threat)

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