A deeply moving drama built around longtime character actor Richard Jenkins, The Visitor is a simmering drama about a college professor and recent widower, Walter Vale (Jenkins), who discovers a pair of illegal aliens who were the victims of a real-estate scam living in his New York apartment. After the mix-up is resolved, Vale invites the couple--a young, Syrian musician named Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and his Senegalese girlfriend (Danai Gurira)--to stay with him. An unlikely friendship develops between the retiring, quiet Vale and the vibrant Tarek, and the former begins to loosen up and respond to Tarek's drumming lessons as if something in him waiting to be liberated has finally been unleashed. All goes well until Tarek is hauled in by immigration authorities and threatened with deportation. His mother, Mouna (Hiam Abbass), turns up and stays with Vale, sparking a renewed if subdued interest in courtship. However, the wheels of injustice in immigration crush all manner of hopes in post-9/11 America. Vale soon realizes that he has unexpected anger over Tarek's plight, and the positive changes to his personal life that emerged from a deep involvement with his friend and Mouna might be the only legacy he takes from this experience. Writer-director Thomas McCarthy has created a wonderfully measured story about change and renewal and put it all on the shoulders of Jenkins, a largely unheralded but masterful performer whose time for renown has surely come.
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