Every year there are a few great films that seem to go under the radar of many filmgoers. There are various reasons for this: they are not shown in your local multiplexes, they do not have any big name stars, there are no over-the-top effects, etc. Yet when given the chance these small, but special, films have the ability to completely blow you away. ”The Visitor” is one of these films. A small hidden gem that is far more powerful than ninety percent of the films you will see this year.
The film focuses on Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins), a professor who is so bored with his life that he spends most of his energy just trying to fake his way through a meaningless existence. When Walter is forced to go back to New York for a conference, he is shocked to find a young couple, Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and his girlfriend Zainab (Danai Gurira), living in his old apartment. Having lived there for two months, Tarek and Zainab are equally startled as they realize that their friend, Ivan, has fraudulently rented them the place. To make matters worst Tarek and Zainab are both illegally immigrants. Seeing that they have nowhere to go, Walter decides to let the couple stay for a few days until they can find a new place. Unbeknownst to Walter, this small gesture will lead to an experience that will ultimately change his entire outlook on life.
Director Tom McCarthy’s film is a wonderful study on human connection. All the bonds in this film feel honest and real. The thing I loved about “The Visitor” was that the film never quite played out in the way I thought it would. By the end of the film you understand why certain choices were made, but you wish the characters had not been placed in a position to make them. Credit must be given to McCarthy for not using any conventional plot devices to move the story along. He lets the characters and the pacing speak for itself. As Walter, Richard Jenkins gives one of the finest performances I have seen all year. It would be a travesty if Jenkins does not get recognized during next year’s award season. “The Visitor” is now out on DVD, so do yourself a huge favour and go out and rent it ASAP. Even if you think this type of film might not be your “cup of tea”...still rent it! If you go into the film with an open mind, you will be greatly rewarded by the end. In short, “The Visitor” is one of the best films to come out this year.