The Visitor (2007)

The Visitor is a movie by Thomas McCarthy, starring Richard Jenkins, Haaz Sleiman, Danai Gurira and Hiam Abbass.

Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) is an economics professor who has been leading a quite and very empty existence ever since his wife died. When he returns to his flat in New York after years of absence, he discovers two squatters there – who don’t know that they are actually squatting. A slow friendship develops between the three of them. Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and Zainab (Danai Gurira) are both illegally in the US and when Tarek gets arrested and is threatened with deportation, Walter tries his best to keep him in the country.

The Visitors attempts to be a very big and important and deep film – and fails. What remains is boring and riddled with ridiculous symbolism.

Unfortunately, The Visitor tells the wrong story. Instead of telling the story of Tarek and Zainab, it tells the story of Walter. Which is not only politically dubious (why would you choose to tell the story of how deportation affects the life of the white guy, instead of the people directly involved?), but it’s also pretty boring because Walter as a character is too passive to engage the audience.

Which is especially sad, because the film is actually brilliantly cast and wonderfully acted. Especially Hiam Abbass and Haaz Sleiman are very impressive.

The movie suffers a lot from the script, but Thomas McCarthy is no help either – I swear, if he had zoomed meaningfully at the Statue of Liberty or the American flag one more time, I would have screamed. As it was, I only laughed uncontrollably. But it was not a happy laugh, I can tell you this.

Oh well. It’s probably not the worst movie of all times, but after all the awards it’s got, I expected a little more than it actually delivered. When I start to check my watch after 45 minutes, that’s really not a good sign.

Summarising: It’s passable, but it could have been so much better…


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