Photo: Groundswell Productions
Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) is a man in need of a midlife crisis. Stuck in a professional rut as an academic and mourning the death of his wife, he sleepwalks through his days—until he's jolted awake when he stops by his little-used New York apartment and finds a young immigrant couple, Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and Zainab (Danai Gurira), staying there illicitly. To everyone's surprise, the trio cautiously begins to form a contented household: Walter latches onto his new roommmates like a shy little brother, Tarek teaches him to play the djembe. But when Tarek is detained on a visa violation and drops into a pitiless bureaucratic void, his new American friend is virtually powerless to help.
The basic outline of The Visitor sounds formulaic: Uptight white guy loosens up with the help of some attractive, kindhearted, darker-skinned foreigners—including Tarek's luminous mom, Mouna (Hiam Abbass). But there's nothing schematic about the quietly affecting second feature by writer-director Thomas McCarthy (The Station Agent), who comments on post-9/11 immigration policy without sacrificing subtle characterizations and finely tuned dialogue. And Jenkins (Six Feet Under), a redoubtable character actor in a rare lead role, is superb as the benumbed widower whose emotional nerve endings come tingling back to life.
From the April 2008 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!