Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Visitor: Grade A

The Visitor (2008)
Richard Jenkins, Haaz Sleiman, Danai Gurira, Hiam Abbas; Writer-Director Thomas McCarthy.

An aging, burned out economics professor (Jenkins) leaves his home in Connecticut to visit his apartment in New York City. He finds a young couple (Sleiman and Gurira) living there illegally. The young man is an aspiring musician from Syria, a player of African drums, while she makes and sells beadwork of her native Senegal on the street. The professor politely asks them to leave and they politely leave, but he realizes they will be destitute and invites them back to share his (amazingly spacious) apartment for a while. Relationships are awkward but he develops a friendship with the young man, but alas, the ICE (immigration authorities) capture the young man. His mother (Abbas) appears at the professor’s door and the movie shifts to the slowly developing relationship between the professor and the mother as they try to get her son out of prison.

The acting by these four principal characters is nothing short of phenomenal. They are all utterly compelling, but Jenkins’ performance is astonishing. He says in a DVD interview, “I have been waiting all my professional life for this role.” It makes you wonder why he had to wait. Abbas also gives an outstanding performance, as does the director in portraying the quiet yet deep relationship that develops between the two older adults. The first half of the picture features the exuberance of the younger couple and conveys the multicultural world that is modern New York. The city is a star character in its own right, lovingly portrayed and beautifully photographed to unite the two halves of the movie. Writing and dialog seem authentic. I didn’t notice a single cliché in dialog, characterization, or photography.

This movie has the slow pace and subtle emotions of a serious foreign film. There are no guns, no drugs, no explosions, no sex, no violence, no stereotypes. It will not please most American moviegoers, but for the few who do enjoy a deeply meaningful study of modern human lives in development, it will be very rewarding.

No comments:

Post a Comment