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Movie Review: The Visitor

Alternate Title: Stranger in a Strange Land

Story: Former actor, now director and writer Thomas McCarthy (The Station Agent) has found his true calling. He is a masterful film maker with a lot to say. His films are small with universal ideas and appeal. This second film hits a home run (with the bases loaded).

Widower, Walter Vale, our reluctant hero, is introduced as a lonely, repressed, middle aged Economics Connecticut college teacher who goes through the tedious motions of living his life. Robotic and detached to all, he seems as if in a fog. When he has to deliver a paper at NYU for a colleague his world changes. He goes to stay at his rarely used apartment of 25 years in the Village he finds Zainab, a Sengalese woman and Tarik, her Syrian boyfriend living there. Feeling an unusual touch of empathy he allows them to stay for a few days until they find new living quarters.

Walters world slowly cracks open as these people seep into his pores, his life and ultimately his heart. When Tarik is arrested the film changes beat and writer McCarthy's message is revealed. Without lecturing or hammering the rights and wrongs of the 'system' we understand the frustration and unfairness of the Immigration department.

This is a beautiful and eloquent film about connecting to other people, friendship, values and passion. Do yourself a favor and go to see this masterful work.

Acting: Richard Jenkins ( TV's Six Feet Under) is brilliant. The character he plays could easily have turned into a cartoon by a lesser talent but Jenkins slowly slips out of his suit of armor, finds his humanity and we are the winners in that transformation. Haaz Sleiman as Tarik is perfect. His warmth, his smile, his fear and his overall passion for life is contagious. Danai Gurira as Zainab is lovely. She plays the always fearful illegal immigrant with heart nd soul. Hiam Abbass as Tarik's mother was also perfect. Kudos to the casting agents for this film .

Predilection: None.

Critters: Mr Sprinkles the dog

Food: Chinese takeout, Shawarma, some yummy home cooked veggies, rice and chicken.

Sex Spectrum: Some cuddling

Blatant Product Placement: Baldwin Piano and Apple

Soundtrack: A wonderful enriching soundtrack by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek

Opening Titles: Simple type over black background. Most credits at the end.

Visual Art: NYC always looks good. Even the subway looked good. The detention center in Queens, however, leaves you cold and sad.

Theater Audience: A few viewers at the Landmark Sunshine theater. By the way, if you go this week keep in mind that Yonah Shimmel's is closed for Passover so you will not be able to smell those wonderful knishes.

Weather: The weather was temperate with a little rain.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Drift Factor: I paid attention throughout.

Predictability Level: High

Tissue Usage: I welled up a bit toward the end but my movie buddy used all of my tissues and some of hers. She wept and wept mostly because she cared so deeply for these fine human beings.

Oscar Worthy: Yes

Soap Box: Our immigration policy is hateful, racist, cruel, rigid and is in need of an urgent overhaul.

Big Screen or Rental: Support your local Indie flick and see it in the theater.

Length: Under two hours