When the nominations for the Oscars were announced this past Thursday, I was pleasantly surprised to see Richard Jenkins nominated for Best Actor. He’s a phenomenal character actor with a large comedic background. So when I saw it was for a film called “The Visitor” I assumed it must be for a comedy. I honestly had no idea what the movie was about, and had heard very little of the small drama. I mean, on the poster, he is sitting in a subway playing bongos(turned out to be African drums) , so the movie must be hilarious, right? Wrong, instead of a slapstick comedy in the vein of “Say it isn’t So” or even the underrated “Burn After Reading”, Jenkins portrays , Walter, a man who has lost any hope of adventure in his life after the death of his wife. He slums through the motions as a college professor, and routinely tries, and gives up on learning the piano.
While attending a conference in New York, he arrives at his 2nd apartment, only to find an immigrant couple, Tarek and Zainab, residing there after falling prey to a real estate scam. Instead of kicking the couple out into the streets, Walter allows them to stay. Then one night he walks in on Tarek practicing the African Drums, and Walter becomes enchanted by the rhythm. Tarek grateful for Walters kindness, teaches him how to play the soulful instrument. Then fate would intervene as the two of them attempt to board a subway, and Tarek is arrested for being an illegal immigrant. Walter then begins an unlikely romance with Tareks’ mother as the two attempt to save him from deportation.
The movie moves slowly, but Jenkins performance is top-notch, his nomination is well deserved. The supporting cast is fantastic as well, they add depth and a true human element to the immigration issue in the United States. I honestly don’t know much about immigration laws or much about the problems it has brought into the U.S. Watching the news about the subject, just portrays these people as “freeloaders” without any right to be here. After watching this movie, it requires you to take a second glance at the issue. Should they be allowed to stay after building a life here? The biggest thing to take from the movie is that it shows that no matter the circumstances, or age, it’s never to late to find a passion within your life. I’d give it a 3 out of 5.