'The Visitor': The Inspired Tale of a Dispirited Professor Discovering Newfound Exhilaration
"The Visitor" (2007) is a wonderfully genuine and inspired drama starring Richard Jenkins as Walter Vale, an aging and dispirited college professor who travels from Connecticut to his second home in New York City—only to discover a pair of squatters inhabiting his apartment. Widowed and living in solitude, Walter travels to New York in order to attend an academic conference when he finds illegal immigrants Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and Zainab (Danai Gurira) in his little-used urban abode. He soon learns of a nefarious scheme to illegally rent his home to unassuming patrons, and in a supreme act of kindness allows them to stay—little realizing the camaraderie he will ultimately develop with the gracious couple. In an act of magnanimity, Tarek introduces Walter to the art of the hand drum—a gesture that proves serendipitous as the aged academic quickly discovers a passion for the percussive instrument. Written and directed by Tom McCarthy ("The Station Agent", "Spotlight"), "The Visitor" is a remarkably touching and often quite humorous tale of accordance, adversity and personal evolution. Jenkins delivers the performance of a lifetime as Walter, fully inhabiting a character experiencing a profound, life-affirming awakening, despite the arduous travails he must overcome. To wit, McCarthy's script explores surprising and unforeseen narrative turns that elevate the film to the level of complex human drama, thereby delivering one of the most unique and heartfelt independent films of the entire decade.
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