The Visitor Reviews
Critics Consensus: The Visitor is a heartfelt, humanistic drama that deftly explores identity, immigration, and other major post-9/11 issues.
This movie is 8 years old yet the situation in Syria is worse now. And with America's policy towards refugees changing possibly for the worse, the film has more impact now than when it was made.
A warning: if you are not in the mood for an emotional independent drama with a spice of romance (although it does a wonderful job pulling you in as it develops), you may find the film too sentimental and even a bit boring, as it drags a little, especially in the beginning. This is definitely a film to watch when you want to be reminded of the goodness in others.
For those who can not wait, due to their country's wars, poverty, genocide, or what have you, you come to America anyways and hope you don't get deported. America, after all, is the land of the free. It is a melting pot of mixed cultures that makes us the U.S of A. Without the ethnecity, America would be pretty boring. Hamburgers and more Hamburgers. So why do we make it impossible for people to become citizens? Crowd control has a lot to do with it.
But this movie shines light on an often debated topic, but with a true human story to drive the point home. It's an emotional rollercoaster.. Donald Trump should watch this movie, and maybe his heart will grow 10x bigger. Or perhaps, he will have a heart attack out of outrage.
I had to re-examine many of the events that occured in The Visitor over and over in my head until I came to the realization of just what they were saying. As the drama in the film is extremely subtle without adhering to typical Hollywood dramatization conventions, the themes are all in the subtext without being explicit. One of the most key themes is the concept of a Post-9/11 New York Ciy which is xenophobic, a reflection of the painful reality that many minorities must face every day. This does not reasonate with me so much because I am not a minority, nor do I live in America where 9/11 is a morning alarm for Fox News and a memory supporting the war on terror. As a result, the themes do not resonate with me as much as they would with an audience who has to face these feelings on a daily basis. By that rationale, The Visitor was not a film I found interpellation with and so connecting to it proved somewhat challenging as I could only embrace certain themes during the experience. But at the same time, as the film is such a gentle feature, it ends up being slow paced and extremely subtle in its drama. As a result, it can be rather dull at times. Frankly, the only real connection I found to the film came from my genuine sense of sympathy for the lonely male protagonist because that is a feeling I am all too familiar with, albeit not to the extent that Walter Vale experienced it in the narrative. Yet the same way that Walter Vale is an every man, this is a feeling we have all felt and it is one I have seen in many films.
The fact is that, for better and for worse, The Visitor is bereft of so many Hollywood conventions which make it stand out in one regard but forgettable in another. The distinctive lack of dramatization makes the story feel genuine and touching, but at the same time it means that the dramatic effect of the film is limited. And like I said, the themes do not resonate with me too heavily and so the ultimate effect of the film is severly limited. What I appreciated more about The Visitor was its genuine intentions from director Thomas McCarthy and the leading performance from Richard Jenkins more than anything else. I was touched by some of the sentiments which meant that I found myself sporadically entertained, but as a whole I found that the film was so subtle that it had a tendency to drag on a bit while I was caught up behind it. But I did find value in the utmost simplicity of the film.
Despite its slow nature, I admired the fact that The Visitor wanted to be a touching film about characters and genuine issues. The screenplay contains dialogue which encourages the viewers to confront real issues and is written with a real sense of natural language about it as well, so the reality of the film becomes clearer with every character even if the genuine entertainment value is not as consistent. And the simplicity of the story is elevated further as a result of the limited amount of locations used in the film since they manage to emphasize the naturally beautiful or grim nature of the New York streets and therefore reinforcing the underlying themes while making the story feel all the more genuine.
And with such a sense of naturalism surrounding the film, The Visitor is able to bring the best talents out of its cast.
Richard Jenkins' performance is largely the best reason to see The Visitor. Richard Jenkins was cast largely on the basis of his "amazing and wonderful everyman quality" by Thomas McCarthy, and that is all too clear in The Visitor because he himself is a great irony. By that I mean he is an actor who is iconic for his everyman nature, and those two prospects should be contradictory. But with Richard Jenkins, they live side by side. Richard Jenkins' performance is a thoroughly gentle one with restrained drama about it, matching the tone of the rest of the film and making his character all the more realistic and therefore sympathetic in the process. He holds himself back and brings audiences to him with a gentle approach to all the subject matter, as well as a genuine sense of human development that goes on between him and the characters around him. Richard Jenkins carries The Visitor on his frail shoulders and delivers an understated performance which is perhaps his greatest to date, proving that he has the skill to lead a film very well and bringing the talents of Haaz Sleiman and Danai Gurira up with him.
Haaz Sleiman is memorable for his appearance in The Visitor. Easily conveying a similar everyman status, Danai Gurira captures a gentle and friendly character whose foreign nature makes him a character of intrigue while his naturally likable persona makes him a sympathetic figure. Haaz Sleiman has a distinctive charm about himself and is far more extroverted than Richard Jenkins which ensures that he makes an impact on the story without having to hit viewers over the head with a reminder of his presence, rather letting his natural charm flourish in the part. Haaz Sleiman has a lot of charismatic energy in The Visitor, and he balances that with natural dramatic sophistication.
The supporting efforts of Danai Gurira and Hiam Abbass are also rich with dramatic flair.
So The Visitor is a film with a powerful cast and an admirable sense of simplicity, though it is not the easiest film to connect to while the slow pace and extremely subtle nature of the themes mean that it is lacking in consistent dramatic flair.