Writer and Director Tom McCarthy’s follow up to the award winning The Station Agent, is a story that explores the same themes of unlikely friendship, making connections and the power of community. The friends that populate The Visitor are Walter, a white, middle-aged professor; Tarek, a young Syrian and his girlfriend, Zainab. Later on, Mouna, Tarek’s mother also joins this unconventional group of people.
Walter meets under strained circumstances when he comes to New York for a conference and finds Tarek and Zainag essentially squatting in his seldom used apartment. After initially kicking them out because he needs his personal space, Walter invites them to stay with him and a connection has been made. Walter’s self-constructed walls, designed to keep life at bay, start to crumble as he gingerly tip-toes outside his comfort zone.
The key thing that ignites Walter’s long hidden passion for life is Tarek’s drumming, coupled with Tarek’s gentle acceptance and willingness to teach. Slowly Tarek is able to draw Walter out of his shell and allows him to embrace the rhythm of life.
Acceptance, connections and community all come under a harsh spotlight however as Tom McCarthy takes The Visitor on a slightly different direction to The Station Agent by addressing political and human rights issues that surround America’s treatment of illegal aliens. It’s a wake up call to how we treat people who we have somehow decided are not worthy enough to live in our country – what ever country that may be. It also gives the viewer pause to think about our own prejudices and how we allow them to shape our view of other people.
All in all The Visitor is a well crafted awakening of the soul, a journey that will bring you joy and anger, that will gently stir your emotions.
Food for thought:
Essentially, The Visitor could be viewed as a contemporary re-interpretation of The Good Samaritan and as such begs us the viewer to look at our attitudes toward people that we would not willingly associate with. It goes a little further and makes us think about what we are missing out on by not going the extra mile for a complete stranger, and how we could be missing out on life’s rich experiences.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Read.
Genre: Comedy, Drama.
Director: Thomas McCarthy.
Actors: Richard Jenkins, Oliver Bokelberg, Hiam Abbass, Maggie Moore.