• PG-13, 1 hr. 44 min.
  • Drama
  • Directed By:
    Tom McCarthy
    In Theaters:
    Apr 25, 2008 Wide
    On DVD:
    Jan 27, 2009
  • Overture Films

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The Visitor Reviews

Page 1 of 200
Daniel P

Super Reviewer

April 25, 2008
A movie I'm sure most people saw only after Richard Jenkins was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar, The Visitor is compelling and well-acted. It starts well, but it suffers in the end because of its change in focus: for a long part in the middle, it's barely about the main character anymore. And though this is kind of the point - he gets swept up in lives very different and much harder than his own - the depth of the early going thins out and the plot becomes much more mechanical, to the point that the final evolution of the protagonist doesn't hit at gut level the way the filmmaker clearly hopes it would. A good movie, but not a great one, notable mostly for Jenkins's performance... the Academy, it seems, would agree.
cosmo313
cosmo313

Super Reviewer

January 11, 2012
A lonely widower professor gets a new lease on lfie after a chance encounter with some illegal immigrants.

Based on that set up alone, you could easily just cast this movie off as another case of minority characters acting as an angelic force whose purpose is to help a down and out white, as well as yet again a film where a white man comes to the aid of minorities in need.

Why do that though? Especially when the way it's all handled (as is the case here) is done with care, intelligence, and an overhwelming sense of gentleness and sincerity (in good ways). The film does have typical elements to it, but it's well played, avoids being pandering (almost completely), and is aved by some terrific performances, especially that of Jenkins in a standout lead role.

Yeah, the film is uneven and all over the place with what it is trying to do, but it's never boring, has a lot fo heart, and could have been done a whole lot worse. Give it a go.
Jennifer X

Super Reviewer

April 10, 2008
Now this is more like it! A slow, simple story that flows out organically and doesn't force anything. It starts out lightly but somehow manages to pull out a spectrum of emotions: laughter, heartbreak, peace, frustration. Richard Jenkins is truly a work of art. Instead of stealing the show for himself he reacts to the events and people that happen. The story isn't about him, and he doesn't make it about him, and I appreciate that. The change is subtle yet quick and pronounced and Jenkins never breaks character. He leaks grief and jadedness wherever he goes but you can sense when he is really happy and when his passive bubble is burst. This isn't a role with lengthy soliloquys and in fact the character is quite an awkward one but somehow this only makes it more humanistic, more compassionate.Music is a uniting force in this movie and whomever chose it has a wonderful ear. Good interspersing of African drum beats among the expansive piano runs. The director managed to make New York look very spare but it's never an image of complete coldness. In fact the cinematography is quite warm and this is all owing to Jenkins' quiet sympathy. It just goes to show that depression is not the answer and even though it doesn't end happily I'm left feeling...elevated somehow. Who was really the one most elevated, the immigrants or the professor? I guess the ending shows the professor, the "visitor" was the one that was. I guess the "visitor" is a metaphor for a happenstance upon a really rich culture. I don't know, honestly I'm really struck by Richard Jenkins. I hope he at least gets considered for an Oscar nod. I can't usually tell these things but this nuanced role was played beautifully and naturally.
Mr Awesome
Mr Awesome

Super Reviewer

March 20, 2011
The Visitor is a simple and gentle film that explores many issues, from immigration to loneliness. The film tells the story of Walter, an economics professor who, since his wife died, has lost any interest in life. His days are filled with joyless routine. Returning to New York to attend a conference, he finds a young foreign couple living in his apartment. Tarek and Zainab are from Syria and Senegal respectively and were fooled into renting the apartment illegally. Walter however, allows them to stay, mostly out of pity, but also out of interest in Tarek's african drum. Walter's late wife was a professional piano player and Walter had been trying in the years since her death to learn to play the instrument. The drum speaks to him in a way the piano could not, and soon he and Tarek are playing together in the park. They seem to form a quick yet tight bond over music that turns into a warm friendship.

The Visitor could've turned into a very predictable, standard look at america's immigration policy towards muslims post 9/11, but Richard Jenkins (academy award nominated) performance as "every white man" keeps it from being one dimensional. You might get the impression his character is supposed to be the typical american, lifeless and without any cultural heritage, but Jenkins brings a pathos to the screen that goes beyond what you might find in the script. The film is all the more satisfying because of it.
middleeasternfilms
middleeasternfilms

Super Reviewer

April 9, 2008
Richard Jenkins brilliantly portrays a lonely college professor who has nothing in his life since his wife died. When he's unexpectedly sent to New York to present a paper a colleague wrote, he finds his apartment has been taken over by an immigrant couple who have been living there for two months. After allowing them to stay, Tarek gets arrested and is on the brink of deportation which puts a new spin on Vale's life and existence since these two are really the only thing he has now. With Tarek's mother, they try and fight his deportation. It's heartwarming, but altogether sad and sometimes funny as the whole film shows just how cruel and unusual the system works since 9/11.
This isn't the first film to deal with the after-effects of the terrorist attacks, but it works rather well and is interesting enough to keep your attention. very well-made with believeable performances from all involved.
Leigh R

Super Reviewer

May 15, 2008
Beautiful. It took some time to get into the film but by the end you are hooked and so involved with the characters. Great acting, great cast, beautifully shot. Love it!
Lanning :

Super Reviewer

July 30, 2010
Now this is an experience not to be missed. I've mentioned in past comments that my primary prayer when I watch a flim is being able to care about characters as if they were real human beings. I present Exhibit A. The good people who carried out this project fired on all cylinders. I've not seen something this moving in many moons. The proverbial icing on the cake is the soundtrack. The music is an integral part of the movie, and it is brilliant. If you want to remember why movies are supposed to be made, this is a guaranteed refresher opportunity.
Red L

Super Reviewer

January 13, 2009
This movie involves a professor who is just going through the motions after his wife's death. He has a seldom-used apartment in New York city, which some con artist has illegally rented to an immigrant couple. Rather than kick them out onto the street, he becomes involved in their lives.

The movie turns out to be a social commentary on America's immigrant policies. I liked the "unfinished" ending. Richard Jenkins was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of the professor, and that nomination is well-deserved.
rubystevens
rubystevens

Super Reviewer

October 11, 2008
a touching story of a lonely man who becomes overly involved in the lives of complete strangers, ultimately renewing his will to live. a little formula, a little unbelievable, but very sweet nevertheless. i loved the scene of him jamming with fela in his connecticut living room but middle-age white guy playing african drum in the subway? lol. very cool
Stefanie C

Super Reviewer

June 16, 2009
an achingly human film, with killer drum beats.
ebs90
ebs90

Super Reviewer

June 7, 2009
Although not parting from a radically original premise, The Visitor is movie with plenty of heart put into it and with an unavoidable sincerity and good will that make it feel outstanding. Filmmaking-wise, it brings nothing new to the table. Its success relies purely on its ability to connect with us and the way it asks us to empathize with it.

Richard Jenkins plays an emotinally numb college professor who leads a boring, uninspired, and dissatisfying life in Connecticut. He once had a beautiful pianist wife, but she passed away. His son lives in London. And so life goes... Until he is forced to give a conference in New York about a paper on economics he didn't even write. He arrives at his house in NYC and discovers two illegal immigrants living inside it: Tarek, from Syria, and Zainab, from Senegal. He doesn't want to kick them out just like that so he lets them stay until they find a new place... and he befriends them. The conference is over and he still doesn't want to return to Connecticut. And when Tarek is inexplicably arrested and considered for deportation, he becomes deeply involved in solving the problem. He who never cared for anything or anyone before.

Oh, and Walter, the professor, is a very big music fan, but terribly self-conscious about his ability to play it or even follow rhythm. Tarek, who plays drums, begins to teach him, and this is one of the most endearing things about the film...

Richard Jenkins gives a very good performance. His character is quiet and inexpressive, allthemore reason to admire the way he communicates comfort, discomfort, happiness, and sadness. Once, when his piano teacher tells him he has no talent, his face shows such heartbreaking defeat, as if taking a blow... a fantastic three seconds, of which I was reminded when the tables turned. Jenkins has total control of the character. His transgressions throughout the film shine through the stone exterior. His awkwardness, concealing a need to become someone else, someone more similar to his real self. Just a great performance. Hiam Abbass (Tarek's mother), Danai Gurira and Haaz Sleiman constitute, let's say, what animates the heart of the film, which would be Jenkins. They are instantly unforgettable. Sleiman is very charismatic. I should expect to see him in more films!

In spite of the tragic scenarios, nothing is completely tragic. The characters develop bonds of unconditional friendship and tolerate their individual Universes -never forgetting their differences, but not transforming them into obstacles-. I suppose they meet in a common ground of humanity, since, after all, they all undergo processes of loss and love, and find solace there, and room to grow. With good dialog and such enthusiastic acting, it all happens naturally.

To all those skeptical of immigrant-themed films, it's worth mentioning that this film is not racist in any way, neither towards the immigrants by stereotyping them, nor towards the American characters by stereotyping or villifying them. I think the script is perfectly balanced.

Of course The Visitor leaves a very secular and humane message of acceptance and empathy between nationalities and characters. But what I loved the most about it was what transcends that cultural part of the 'lesson' and happens in a merely human dimension: how this one person, Tarek, could goodheartedly teach Walter to play the drums, and how Walter, with his help, could overcome his own self-conciousness and his feelings of inadequacy to do what he darn well wanted to: play music and follow rhythm and let loose. If helping another person become a better, happier version of himself, to help him perfect himself, like it happens here, is not a perfect idea of friendship, then what is?

So four stars for lovely performances and for being just plain right in many ways.
bbcfloridabound
bbcfloridabound

Super Reviewer

May 19, 2009
Don't know if its because of the amount of time I have lived outside the United States and I view this differently then most or if its just the fact that this was a enjoyable movie, but either case it deserves 5 stars. Not only are we looking at the life of a immigrant, but also at the life of someone who is searching for that "Got to me more to life then this. Everyone in this movie plays there part to the top of the pin cal. Hiam Abbass plays that person who wanders across ones path just at the right moment and right time, but we don't realize it till they leave. Haaz Sleiman plays the part of a friend, who wants nothing more then to be a friend. And Richard Jenlins is that man searching. Yes a Top of the line film. Under 30 crowd you might not see it this way, But still see and enjoy the movie and the music. Where can I get my Drum. 5 Stars.
Luke B

Super Reviewer

April 10, 2009
Richard Jenkins gives a performance that many actors will never give. One of extreme subtlety and restraint. He still manages to pack an emotional wallop a thousand times greater than those "screaming to the heavens, aided by dramatic music" actors. Jenkins plays the everyman, he doesn't like people that much but he shows great kindness, even if the warmth is absent. It's as though he does kind things just to prove to himself that he is capable of doing them. The film is a comment on relations between Americans and immigrants, without the sappy nonsense and clich├ęd bullshit. There's no dramatic speeches, Jenkins isn't a racist that learns a valuable lesson and there's none of that "We are all the same" crap. Jenkins and Sleiman enrich each others lives, but don't change them. Instead the wonderful screenplay has them open up parts of themselves that were already there. Uplifting, tragic and enfuriating, all handled with such believable care.
Dan S

Super Reviewer

February 22, 2009
A sad, low-key, realistic film dealing with immigration and the people affected by it. Richard Jenkins gives a superbly restrained performance as a man who stumbles upon a couple living not only illegally in his apartment, but in this country, by chance and builds an uncharacteristic relationship with them. The film is rich in culture, and Jenkins is really a treat to watch, and his supporting parts are very good as well. Its a quiet Indie-movie that deserves a view.
Al S

Super Reviewer

February 13, 2009
A wonderful, nuanced and very moving movie. It's flat-out perfection filled with brilliant performances. Richard Jenkins is outstanding, a very well developed and compelling performance done by by a great character actor in a incrediable leading role. A heart-warming, terifficly funny and very powerful film. It's all heart and soul. It has fantastic character development that stands out in this well-crafted and very beautifully human drama. A truly remarkable and absolutely unforgettable work of art.
gor41
gor41

Super Reviewer

November 6, 2008
Restrained, elegant study of a man's midlife crisis and his salvation through the plight of illegal immigrants he becomes involved with. Jenkins is worthy of his nomination but is ably supported by a talented ensemble.
Fernando Rafael Q

Super Reviewer

April 7, 2008
A beautiful film, in which the camera flows smoothly.

Smart direction by Thomas McCarthy, showing mere glimpses of Walter's activities to center on the important aspects of his life.

The best thing abouth THE VISITOR is Richard Jenkins' sincere performance, quite an opposite to the loud, intense roles the Academy favors. Good supporting performances by Danai Gurira and Hiam Abbass. Beautiful shots and sounds complete this simple indie, which will most likely be forgotten.
boxman
boxman

Super Reviewer

December 21, 2008
[font=Arial][color=DarkRed]The X-Files: I Want to Believe - To all fellow X-Files fans out there, the movie is not nearly as bad as you may have been lead to believe. That said, it's pretty much a so-so standalone episode of the TV show needlessly expanded. And yes, for all concerned fans, Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) kiss on more than one occasion. The plot that reunites the characters is fairly mediocre, something about a ring of mad scientists that want to be a modern-day Dr. Frankenstein. You don't need a two-headed attack dog to know that plot is way too hokey. The most intriguing aspect of the film is a priest (Billy Connolly) who also receives psychic visions, cries tears of blood, and, oh yeah, is a convicted pedophile. Could God be responsible for his special abilities as well as the abhorrent sexual urges? There is so much great conflict and human drama in this character worth examining, so it's a pitiful shame that he just gets shoved off so the third act can concentrate on the lame mad scientists. A majority of the flick occurs in snowy West Virginia, which doesn't translate into anything too special to look at. I'll admit, my rating is inflated because I was an ardent fan of the TV show until the last years when it felt like they weren't even trying any more. If you stripped away my allegiance, I'd say that the second X-Files movie serves little purpose other than to add a tiny coda to a TV show that went off the air in 2002. The characters are worth revisiting, just not in this tepid tale.

Nate's Grade: C+


The Visitor - The follow-up by Thomas McCarthy, the writer/director of the sparkling Station Agent, is an affecting indictment on our nation's immigration policies that manages to say a lot of important things in small touches, ditching histrionic messages. Walter (Richard Jenkins, in a commanding and deeply empathetic performance) discovers a pair of illegal immigrant squatters living in his seldom-used New York City apartment. He strikes up an unlikely friendship that moves in subtle strokes that keeps the movie very character-based. The second half of the film revolves around Walter's attempts to work within the system to free his new friend from detention. I could have spent more time with Walter and Tariq, the Syrian immigrant who teaches Walter how to play the African drum. The Visitor explores a man learning in his autumn years how to reconnect with people, and it has moments of astonishing emotional clarity. McCarthy is a filmmaker that can spin narrative gold from just about anything; The Station Agent had a hot dog vendor, a single mom, and a dwarf. The Visitor is further proof that McCarthy is an extremely talented man who knows how to target and tap the humanity of his unique characters. There are very few moments in this movie that feel false.

Nate's Grade: B+


Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day - The movie seems to float on the effervescent air of 1930s screwball comedies, and in truth it does possess some of that snappy allure. Francis McDormand travels into the inner circle of the upper social classes in London and befriends a bubbly lounge singer, played by bubbly actress Amy Adams. The film moves at a ridiculously fast pace, sometimes too fast as it tries to pile on complications and setbacks. This day-in-the-life confection is sweet and well natured but rather too digestible. Once the movie is over I do not see myself ever dwelling upon it once again. It's a pleasant and entertaining experience even if it dances right out of your memory.

Nate's Grade: B


Man on Wire - Why? That's likely to be the question on many people's minds when this documentary concludes. Why did effete Frenchman Philippe Petit decide to walk on a tight rope between the World Trade Center towers in 1974? Why devote an entire feature-length documentary to a subject that seems pretty limited? Well, Man on Wire is certainly an engaging film; amusingly, director James Marsh structures the flick like a heist movie, where we watch Petit assemble his team and practice his stunt. There is a sense of beauty watching a man balance on a wire hundreds of feet above the ground. The film also has colorfully French characters to fill in the details on how they pulled off the "artistic crime of the century." Of course any modern art dealing with the World Trade Center is given new meaning, and Man on Wire is aided by added poignancy of watching the building construction and then the daring feats of Petit. I confess, though, that I'm dumbstruck at this movie being declared the finest documentary of 2008. It's a good movie, sure, but not even the fourth best documentary I've seen in a doc-heavy year. The footage of Man on Wire is more amazing than the story behind how it happened.

Nate's Grade: B


Hellboy II: The Golden Army - I hated the first Hellboy, dubbing it the second worst film of 2004. The fact that I enjoyed the sequel is nothing short of shocking. Honestly, I think this mumbo jumbo is easier to swallow when it's more fantasy based than science fiction based. I can accept an alternative magical world filled with elf princes, troll markets, and tiny "tooth fairy" creatures that act like piranhas with wings. Nazis and Zombie Rasputin trying to open a portal to giant squids? What the hell are giant squids going to do against nuclear bombs? I'm sorry, that's powerfully stupid and unacceptable. Hellboy II is even more imaginative and far more enjoyable. Writer/director Guilermo del Toro has refined the world and makes sure his story follows the rules it sets, which means that while the plot gets crazy it doesn't feel cheap. I actually had some fun with Hellboy II and del Toro knocks out some pretty crafty action sequences. As expected, the makeup and creature designs are impeccable, which may explain why I had more fun watching the various magical creatures than following Nazis and slime wolves in the first flick. The lithe Angel of Death is particularly startling, with a head like a fried calzone and eyeballs dotted along expansive bird wings. This is a film that feels much more confident about its identity, thanks in part to getting rid of the rookie main character from the first film and focusing on the big red guy. If del Toro ever makes a third Hellboy film, I can honestly say I'll be highly intrigued to see what weird wonders he cooks up. This statement is astounding considering I felt that there was only one 2004 film worse than the original Hellboy.

Nate's Grade: B[/color][/font]
Aaron N

Super Reviewer

April 7, 2008
Walter: Tarek is teaching me the drum.
Mouna: How is that going?
Walter: I sound better when he's playing with me.

Richard Jenkins is a character actor many may recognize (although probably refer to him as "that guy") from a long list of film roles ranging from Coen Brother films to Farrely Brother films. Here he gets to headline a very well handled human drama from writer/director Thomas McCarthy who previously made The Station Agent, another wonderful film.

Jenkins stars as Walter Vale, a college professor and widower living in Connecticut. He is bored with his life but does little to express himself to others. A colleague informs Walter that he must present a paper he co-authored in New York and Walter reluctantly agrees to go.

Walter also owns a room in the city and upon returning finds an immigrant couple squatting in his apartment. The couple, played by Haaz Sleiman as Tarek and Danai Jekesai Gurira as Zainab, have apparently been tricked into thinking they were renting from another person, but the misunderstanding soon results in them leaving the apartment. However, out of common decency in seeing they don't immediately have a place to stay, Walter invites them to return for a few days until they find a new place.

Tarek is formerly from Syria and moved away from his mother in Michigan to New York to play music. He plays the Djumbe (a drum). Zainab is from Senegal, is in love with Tarek, and makes and sells her own jewelry.

Soon Walter and the couple form a bond, with Tarek teaching Walter to drum and getting him to open up more, to an extent.

Problems ensue however as a simple mistake leads to Tarek being arrested and placed in detention, due to him actually being an illegal immigrant.

Tarek's mother, played by Hiam Abbass, eventually comes to New York as well, wanting to be present during her son's predicament as Walter selflessly tries to help Tarek and stop him from being deported.

The movie works on a number of levels. Its a drama, but doesn't confine itself to a specific mold. There are comic moments, awkward moments, some brave moments, and some sad moments. It all works well due to skilled the actors are. Its all very believable and down to earth.

The movie isn't much in terms of cinematic style, which isn't really needed, but I did enjoy the ways the drum kept factoring in in various ways.

A very good movie, with a great chance for Jenkins to shine.

Mouna: This is not your problem. You don't have to keep visiting him.
Walter: I want to.
Tim S

Super Reviewer

April 11, 2008
I don't know how to feel about this movie. On one hand, it's a nice, simple story with a cool ending. On the other hand, it's a cinematic piece of white guilt. Look, I disagree with the injustices that the movie brings up, but I don't need it jammed down my throat. I enjoyed the way the film as shot and Richard Jenkins is a character actor who deserves more lead roles.
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