The Visitor

“This isn’t the post I originally intended to write today. What was supposta happen yesterday is that I was planning on going to an advance screening of The Signal at the Brattle, and then I’d write that up today. I actually got a bit ahead and started advance posting a few things to cover me while I’m in NYC this weekend. But then the cold I’d been fighting off this week just really hit me hard. I decided it was better to stay in and rest up so I could hopefully be better by weekend, instead of trying to push myself too hard.

I left work a little early, got home and warmed up some soup, put on a new movie from my DVD queue, and laid down on the couch under a couple blankets and a cat. The movie I grabbed was The Visitor. What I did not expect was how much I fell in love with the movie. Normally I wouldn’t just blog a new DVD watch, but this film was so beautiful.

I first heard about this little movie when the 2009 Academy Award nominees were announced. Richard Jenkins was up for best actor, as a complete surprise to pretty much everyone. I think that last slot was expected to go to Leo for Revolutionary Road, but instead a lesser known actor in a small film edged him out. Curiosity peaked, but it would still be a while until I sought it out. Jenkins has shown up in a variety of movies since, and every time I see him, his nomination has been in the back of my mind. Seeing him in Cabin in the Woods was what really endeared him to me (as is the case with just about anyone who’s in a Joss Whedon movie) so it became more of a priority. Then Best Buy had a sale last week.

The film centers around Jenkins’ Walter, a widower and professor who lives in CT and is mostly dissatisfied with life. Work sends him to NYC for a few days, where he keeps an apartment he hasn’t seen in months. He walks in to find a young immigrant couple living there, the unknowing victims of a scam. He allows them to stay and quickly forms a friendship with them, particularly with Tarek, the full of life young man from Syria. Tarek teaches Walter to play drums, giving him some of the first experiences of joy he’s had in a while. A misunderstanding in the subway leads to Tarek’s arrest, and he’s soon sent to an immigration detention center. Walter works hard to try and get his friend released. He also becomes quite close with Tarek’s mother, Mouna, who has traveled to New York to be near her incarcerated son.

If you’d just told me the prmise, I’d have prolly rolled my eyes and thought it sounded dull. But that description doesn’t really capture the heart of the film, which is in the characters. I do still think Jenkins’ nomination was a surprise, but seeing this now it’s a well deserved one. He could have so easily succumbed to the malaise of his character and dragged down the film, but instead he made Walter a character you cared for. One whose emotions you felt along with him. Haaz Sleiman, Danai Gurira, and Hiam Abbass turned in equally strong supporting performances.

This was one of those rare films where I feel like a better person for having seen it. It’s such a gem of a movie, and I’m thankful for the little bit of awards notice it received.”

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