To call the visitor 'slight' would do it a great disservice. It is a wonderful little film about the struggles of illegal immigrants in the US, but it somehow feels 'slight' as if it is something not fully realised.
There is a great film somewhere here, just not what we see in front of us.
Richard Jenkins gives a text book restrained performance as Walter Vale. He is a man of very few words, and the words he does utter seem to have no real impact other than getting his message across. Even in his big emotional (oscar clip) scene he is not very....well....fluent.
So for a man of no verbal prowess, how does he express himself? Well his action speak much more loudly than his words do. He is a kind man and his life has finally found meaning after the death of his beloved wife, with the introduction Tarek and Zainab, a young couple living in his apartment. He sacrifices his job to help them and Tarek's mother Mouna and along the way finds that his heart beats as loudly as a drum (awwwwww).
Thomas McCarthy directs the film with no flourish, keeping the focus squarely on the lead character, and the story that is unfolding. This works to the emotional success of the film, but also to what I felt was its downfall.
With a stripped bare style we are not manipulated by stirring strings or long close ups, which works very well with this type of story. The thing about this stripped down style is when you shave make sure there are no cracks exposed.
The whole plight of the illegal immigrant is seen from the perspective of a very white and very American male. As a viewer I was a little confused as to the point of the film. Were we supposed to feel bad for this man who had a home, a life and an income (he has two homes so he wasn't struggling) because he has to say goodbye to people he doesn't really know?
was that the point of the film?
Is the only contact we have with the illegal immigrants of our world just as fleeting? The only difference is he bothered to get to know them?
I am not sure what the answer is, or what the film really had to say. Is the plight of these people who come to our country for amnesty unfair...well of course it is, however, with 'The Visitor' I wanted to know less about Walter and much more about Tarek, Zainab and Mouna (the wonderful Hiam Abbass who is wonderfully natural as well as the emotional centre of the film).
I want to know about their stories.
Grade : B-