Monday, August 04, 2008

The Visitor

Walter, a lonely, stick-in-the-mud, college professor at a Connecticut university returns to his New York apartment after a long absence to find a couple of illegal immigrants in residence: Tarek, an outgoing Syrian drummer and his prickly Senegalese girl friend, Zainab. The easy way out would be to kick out the squatters and get on with his life, but Walter, who up to now has been taking the easy way out, allows compassion to override the sensible/easy decision.

The two parties share the apartment and maintain a polite distance until Walter takes an interest in Tarek's drumming. This precipitates a chain of events leading to Tarek's arrest and film moves into a different gear as everyone is now caught up in the meat grinder of American immigration detention centres. Tarek's mum is now pulled into the picture and relationships change again, with Walter now the middle between girlfriend, mother and detained son.

Tom McCarthy (the writer/director) uses the same technique as in the earlier Station Agent -- characters (including a loner) who wouldn't normally meet are thrown together by circumstances and find themselves out of their comfort zone. The Visitor has the same message as About a Boy, and I think does it more convincingly, namely life is more interesting (if less comfortable) if you get involved in other people's problems.

Ian's rating 3.5/5

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