3.8 17
Director: Tom McCarthy

Cast: Richard Jenkins, Hiam Abbass, Haaz Sleiman


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A lonesome widower and college economics professor finds his mundane existence suddenly shaken up when he befriends a pair of illegal immigrants, one of whom has recently been threatened with deportation by U.S. immigration authorities, in the sophomore feature from The Station Agent director TomSee more details below

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A lonesome widower and college economics professor finds his mundane existence suddenly shaken up when he befriends a pair of illegal immigrants, one of whom has recently been threatened with deportation by U.S. immigration authorities, in the sophomore feature from The Station Agent director Tom McCarthy. Years after losing his wife, 62-year-old Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) has also lost his passion for writing and teaching. In an effort to fill the empty void that his life has become, Walter makes a half-hearted attempt to learn to play classical piano. Later, when Walter's college sends him to a conference in Manhattan, he is surprised to discover that a young couple has moved into his seldom-used apartment in the city. Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and his Senegalese girlfriend Zainab (Danai Gurira) have fallen victims to an elaborate real-estate scam, and as a result they no longer have a place to call home. When Walter reluctantly allows the couple to remain in his apartment, talented musician Tarek insists on repaying his host's kindness by teaching him to play the African drum. Over the course of Walter's lessons, the ageing academic finds his spirits revitalized while gaining a newfound appreciation for New York jazz clubs and Central Park drum circles. Later, Tarek is arrested in the subway and threatened with deportation after police learn that he is an undocumented citizen. Suddenly, in his attempt to help his new friend, Walter's passion for life is unexpectedly awakened. When Tarek's radiant mother Mouna (Hiam Abbass) arrives in the city in search of her son, that passion turns to romance -- something that Walter had previously thought he would never experience again.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
Like his first film, The Station Agent, Tom McCarthy's elegantly structured sophomore effort, The Visitor, tells a very simple story about a human being inching his way out of a self-imposed emotional cocoon. Richard Jenkins stars as professor Walter Vale, a middle-aged widower going through the motions at his job, as well as in his life. Aside from a diminishing desire to learn piano, Walter lives without any passion -- not even his young eager students touch him. Jenkins plays the character without an ounce of hangdog charm -- he is not a lovable loser, but a cold shell of a person, disconnected from everybody and everything. When his boss orders him to attend an academic conference in New York City, he grudgingly relents and discovers quite a surprise when he arrives at the apartment he keeps there, which he hasn't been to in many years. He finds a pair of illegal immigrants, Tarek and Zainab, who have taken up residence. Although Walter kicks them out, he eventually relents out of common decency -- the two have nowhere else to go for the night. The Syrian-born Tarek, played beautifully by newcomer Haaz Sleiman, is full of all the life and enthusiasm that Walter lacks -- so much so that his goodwill naturally spills over into his work as a professional jazz percussionist. He and his girlfriend work out an understanding with Walter over the use of the apartment, and one day he arrives home to find Walter there, attempting to play one of his African drums. Tarek begins giving the older man lessons, and Walter experiences a joy while practicing that begins his emotional rehabilitation. Just when everything seems to be going well for the new friends, however, a misunderstanding at a subway station leads to Tarek's detention at a center for illegal immigrants. Walter does everything he can to help the young man, including hiring a lawyer and visiting him as much as possible. In one poignant scene, they practice drum rhythms over the phone during visitation as they look at each other across a glass partition. This is, in many ways, the exact same story arc McCarthy employed in The Station Agent; the mournful loner learns to come out of his shell. However, where that film was content to tell just the characters' stories, The Visitor has a much more ambitious theme. With a subtle insistence, McCarthy makes the viewer aware that Walter represents where America is spiritually and emotionally in the years after September 11, 2001. This theme takes root slowly, blossoming as the film develops and as the audience gradually, but most assuredly, learns to care for the main character. In Walter's relationship with Tarek, Tom McCarthy offers a critique that America, like Walter, loses its way when it shuts itself off from other people. The list of great films about post 9/11 America is very short, but The Visitor belongs on it, in large part because it distills huge societal issues down to one very simple and compelling human story.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Starz / Anchor Bay
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
Sales rank:

Special Features

An inside look at The Visitor; Commentary featuring director Tom McCarthy and actor Richard Jenkins; Playing the Djembe; Deleted scenes ; Trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Richard Jenkins Walter Vale
Hiam Abbass Mouna
Haaz Sleiman Tarek
Danai Gurira Zainab
Marian Seldes Barbara
Richard Kind Jacob
Michael Cumpsty Charles
Maggie Moore Karen
Bill McHenry Darin
Tzahi Moskovitz Zev
Amir Arison Mr. Shah
Neal Lerner Martin Revere
Ramon Fernandez Cop #1
Frank Pando Cop #2
Waleed Zuaitor Omar
Deborah Rush Upper Eastside Woman
Ashley Springer Student
Laith Nakli Nasim
Jacqueline Brogman Waiter
Walter T. Mudu Ronald Cole
Yevgeniy Dekhtyar Slavic Man
Earl Baker Lester James
Walter the Dog Sprinkles the Dog

Technical Credits
Tom McCarthy Director,Screenwriter
Omar Amanat Executive Producer
Kerry Barden Casting
Oliver Bokelberg Cinematographer
Damian Canelos Sound/Sound Designer
Len X. Clayton Art Director
Mariela Comitini Asst. Director
Suzanne Crowley Casting
Stephane Foenkinos Casting
Billy Hopkins Casting
Jan A.P. Kaczmarek Score Composer
Michael London Producer
Tom McArdle Editor
Rafal Paczkowski Sound Mixer
John Paino Production Designer
Stacey Panepinto Makeup
John Piano Production Designer
Mary Ramos Musical Direction/Supervision
Chris Salvaterra Executive Producer
Paul Schnee Casting
Mary Jane Skalski Producer
Jeff Skoll Executive Producer
Ricky Strauss Executive Producer
Melissa Toth Costumes/Costume Designer

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Visitor
1. Main Title/Searching for Inspiration [7:15]
2. Unexpected Guests [7:54]
3. Global Policy Conference [8:32]
4. First Lessons [6:01]
5. Catching the Rhythms [6:23]
6. Taken Into Custody [5:10]
7. Detention Center [8:49]
8. Mouna's Arrival [9:24]
9. Legal Council [5:15]
10. Making Connections [8:07]
11. Realizing What's Meaningful [3:45]
12. Moments of Happiness [8:18]
13. Devastating News [5:53]
14. Seeking Solace [3:42]
15. Bittersweet Farewell [4:23]
16. End Credits [4:49]

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