The Visitor

2008

The Visitor

Critics Consensus

The Visitor is a heartfelt, humanistic drama that deftly explores identity, immigration, and other major post-9/11 issues.

89%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 117

84%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 127,065
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Movie Info

A lonesome widower and college economics professor finds his mundane existence suddenly shaken up when he befriends a pair of illegal immigrants, one of whom has recently been threatened with deportation by U.S. immigration authorities, in the sophomore feature from The Station Agent director Tom McCarthy. Years after losing his wife, 62-year-old Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) has also lost his passion for writing and teaching. In an effort to fill the empty void that his life has become, Walter makes a half-hearted attempt to learn to play classical piano. Later, when Walter's college sends him to a conference in Manhattan, he is surprised to discover that a young couple has moved into his seldom-used apartment in the city. Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and his Senegalese girlfriend Zainab (Danai Gurira) have fallen victims to an elaborate real-estate scam, and as a result they no longer have a place to call home. When Walter reluctantly allows the couple to remain in his apartment, talented musician Tarek insists on repaying his host's kindness by teaching him to play the African drum. Over the course of Walter's lessons, the ageing academic finds his spirits revitalized while gaining a newfound appreciation for New York jazz clubs and Central Park drum circles. Later, Tarek is arrested in the subway and threatened with deportation after police learn that he is an undocumented citizen. Suddenly, in his attempt to help his new friend, Walter's passion for life is unexpectedly awakened. When Tarek's radiant mother Mouna (Hiam Abbass) arrives in the city in search of her son, that passion turns to romance -- something that Walter had previously thought he would never experience again. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for The Visitor

All Critics (117) | Top Critics (31)

  • A beautiful, quiet, measured movie about the death of some American values since September 11, 2001.

    Aug 29, 2008 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • At first glance Walter isn't a guy you want to spend two hours with. But by the end of the film, you don't want to see him go. Jenkins is like that: He sneaks up on you and steals your heart with light-fingered skill.

    May 2, 2008 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • The Visitor is a tiny treasure of a movie. This is a wistful comedy that quickly finds its rhythm, but never lets that groove become a rut.

    May 2, 2008 | Rating: 4/5
  • The Visitor is a small movie, but its emotions could not be writ any larger.

    Apr 25, 2008 | Rating: 3/4
  • The film becomes less about the suffering of immigrants who have never enjoyed the embrace of Ellis Island than the righteous indignation of a liberal intelligentsia raging against its own powerlessness.

    Apr 25, 2008 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • The story of Vale's revitalization and his grief is compelling but simple, free of any sentimentality, and marked by powerful performances from Jenkins and Hiam Abbass, who plays Mouna Khalil, Tarek's mother.

    Apr 25, 2008 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Visitor

  • Jan 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.
    Chris W Super Reviewer
  • Mar 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.
    Devon B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 23, 2010
    I bought this movie at Best Buy to give to my mom (along with "Raising Arizona") for a birthday present. I had never seen it, but I remembered that it was critically praised, along with Richard Jenkins' performance, and it was on sale (cheap son, I am). So today, after visiting my grandpa, my mom said, "Let's pop in that movie you got me," and I was like, "Sure!" Then, about ten minutes into the movie, I realized that this would be my 1,000th review on Flixter! I had mixed feelings, because I had thought that I would have given more thought to what my 1000th movie would be, but I got over that and said, hey, I shouldn't plan these things, I should just let it happen.... So, how was the (roughly) 1,000th movie I've ever seen? Good! It was quietly pretty moving, and Richard Jenkins did deserve all the praise he got. He was perfect for the role. The movie didn't blow me away or anything, but it deals with some hot topics like immigration, post 9/11 fears, racial profiling, and interracial and interreligious relationships, all in a very delicate way, all the while evolving Richard Jenkins' character. It was a sweet movie, and one that I would have no problem recommending to anybody who likes small, socially relevant movies. It also made me want to buy a Djembe drum. So, for my 1,000th film, I could have definitely done worse.
    Jared H Super Reviewer
  • Oct 18, 2010
    Almost a perfect movie. Richard Jenkins acting was magnificent and the unknown supporting cast was also surprising good. I feel that for this to have been a perfect movie, it should've developed the characters(Tarek) up more so when he was sent to detention, the audience would feel more tied into the movie. Overall a very good film.
    Anthony L Super Reviewer

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