Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Visitor Movie Review

The Visitor (2007) is an emotional tale of self discovery late in life and the so called American dream. With a career defining performance by Richard Jenkins you are in for a "reel" treat. The movie has the newcomers Haaz Sleiman and Danai Gurira along with the always great Hiam Abbass.

Walter (Jenkins) is a widower and college professor at Connecticut College that is nearing the end of his career. He is lonely, reserved, and bored as he goes through the motions of his life in CT. He enjoys classical music and tries to learn to play the piano; but, without the drive and internal flame for life, he struggles. Reluctantly he goes to New York City to present a paper he symbolically co-authored. Having a successful life, he maintains an apartment there to make trips to the city easier.

When he arrives in NYC he is perplexed to find fresh flowers and lights on in his apartment. Opening the bathroom door proves to be the surprise of a lifetime. Zainab (Gurira) is in the bath; she starts screaming and is afraid not knowing who this man is. Her boyfriend, Tarek, arrives during all this and the situation escalates as he slams Walter against the wall thinking he harmed Zainab. Through much screaming they finally figure out that they sublet the apartment illegally from someone and Walter is the true owner. Being great people they pack there things and head on there way apologizing for the misunderstanding. When he discovers they have nowhere to go he graciously offers to let them stay - thus starting a relationship that will touch all of their souls.

Tarek plays the djembe (African drum) for a band and on the street for tips while Zainab makes stunning handmade jewelry she sells at a booth. After the first day at the conference Walter returns to see Tarek's drum and is intrigued after watching others play in the park on his lunch. Perhaps Walter has finally found an instrument he can express himself with. Over the next few days he learns from Tarek through some simple lessons and while listening to him play at the clubs. Walter begins to break out of his shell and they both go to play the drums in the park. On their way back they take the subway and have trouble getting through the turn styles with the drums. Tarek swipes his subway card but ends up having to jump over because he gets all contorted. Some undercover officers see him and take him in.

Walter tells the story to Zainab when he returns that night - she is already upset because Tarek was supposed to help her pick up her new table for selling her items. She becomes very emotional; Walter tries to calm her saying he made a statement at the station and they should release him that night - it was all just a misunderstanding. His heart sinks when Zainab tells him they are illegals. The next day Tarek has been moved to an Immigration Services detention center. I want to keep writing more about this amazing and gripping yet tranquil movie, but I will not ruin it for you. The beats of the djembe are intoxicating and a whole new story comes into view when Tarek's mom (Abbass) comes into town after not hearing from her son for a couple days.

All the above (and more) occurs in about the first 30 minutes of the movie. It is a wonderfully paced movie but filled with amazing detail and emotion. If you watch the movie again you catch on to many things you didn't notice the first time; don't get me wrong - you will not be confused at all. It is an easy story to follow but enlightening to see how much detail was put into it.

10 out of 10 - I was memorized by this film. The acting and storyline are extremely well-done. I hope you can watch this and share your feelings about it. Live in MA? I will have you over for movie and a coffee; that is how much I love this movie! It had me tapping my foot, cheering, and crying.


  1. Definitely a quiet gem from last year. I'm not quite as enthusiastic about it as you, but it definitely deserved a bit more recognition than it got. Granted being released in April, not sure the studio knew it had an oscar contender.

  2. I'm with you! I absolutely love this film. I really identified with it and found it really moving, yet really subtle.

    Great, great stuff. Great review too!

  3. This is a fantastic film. Jenkins propels it to greatness. One of the best movies of 2008, Jenkins deserved every bit of praise he got -- even though it still didn't seem like enough.

  4. Another great review! It seems we're seeing many of the same films!

    Movie blessings!
    Jana Segal