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The Visitor

The Visitor – Review


When Connecticut college professor, Walter (Richard Jenkins) reluctantly goes to New York city to give a lecture, he discovers a couple of illegal immigrants, Palestinian-Syrian Tariq (Haaz Soleiman) and Senegalese Zainab (Danai Gurira), living in his little-used apartment. They’d rented it from a con man.

Walter tosses them out, but when he sees them struggling with their meagre belongings, he changes heart and invites them stay until they find a new place – and soon a new odd family is formed.

Walter is an aloof widower, impatient with his students and his piano teachers and his academic life is as empty as his bed. That gradually changes when gregarious Tariq, who is a drummer, invites him into his life and teaches him to play African drums.

But soon Walter is forced to learn a new lesson about politics and globalisation when Tariq is arrested and sent to a detention centre.

Walter becomes the only conduit between Tariq and the outside world, as he desperately tries to get him out. And when Tariq’s mother, Mouna (Haim Abbas) arrives looking for her son, Walter’s heart wakes up and starts beating as loud as his drums.


Unlike other recent movies about Muslim immigrants battling the post 9/11 American system, “The Visitor” tilts toward the soulful rather than politics, which renders it one of the most engaging and poignant movies of the year.

What truly make “The Visitor” unique and compelling are the fascinating characters that ultimately sustain the viewers’ interest: the American professor whose sad life is transformed by his friendship with Tariq and attraction to Mouna and the immigrants who’ve escaped persecution and made a home in America.

In fact, this is one of the few films where the mid-eastern characters are fully-rounded, real and sympathetic.
These characters come to life thanks to a riveting performance from a wonderful cast, particularly Richard Jenkins and Hiam Abbas.

“The Visitor” is not only about immigration, but also about loneliness, music, friendship and love. It ingeniously manages to weave together all these different threads seamlessly and treats the political issues as nothing more than an outgrowth of human story limns the tightening bond between a group of apparently desperate characters who nevertheless recognise and respond to need in one another. After all, human relationships transcend politics, religion and race.

This is a cinematic heaven from the director of “The Station Agent”, one of the best and most overlooked films of 2003. It has already attracted a lot of attention in festivals but most likely it will not go beyond the walls of the art houses.

Opens Nationwide 4th July 2008

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