The Visitor (Anchor Bay)

2008, Rated PG-13

Nov 12, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Richard Jenkins should work more ...or at least be in more films like The Visitor, a compelling but sometimes preachy look at the hot-button issue of immigration and deportation.

Jenkins plays Walter Vale, a college professor in Connecticut who travels to New York City to present a paper on economic issues in foreign nations — a contrivance that is bearable given director Tom McCarthy’s (The Station Agent) underplay with the subject. When he arrives in New York, Walter finds a young foreign couple, Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and Zainab (Danai Gurira), living in his apartment and soon develops a close bond with them, inviting them to stay at his apartment and taking djembe (African drum) lessons from Tarek.

The Visitor is an example of a great underthe-radar film that will never receive the amount of attention it deserves. What’s even more disappointing is that Jenkins’ restrained yet powerful performance will likely go overlooked as well. McCarthy and his leading man provide a DVD commentary track that proves Jenkins to be the same restrained, soft-spoken anti-socialite that he portrays in the film.

McCarthy tries to save the commentary with trivia about the making of the film, but his repeated banter about the injustices of the deportation system, how the numerous American flags that appear in the film weren’t preconceived and his silence in observance of Vale’s cringe-worthy statement in his climactic soliloquy, “We are not just helpless children,” make The Visitor and McCarthy come off as a tad pretentious. Grade: B