Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Visitor (2007)

Thomas McCarthy is a man of many talents. He has a lucrative TV acting career with stints on "Law & Order", "Boston Public", and "The Wire". He appears in many a quality films made States-side (Syriana (2005), Meet the Parents (2000) and Good Night and Good Luck (2005)). He is also apparently responsible for the story of Up. And lest we forget he directed The Station Agent (2003) - a directorial debut that is as good as they come.

In his second directorial output, McCarthy strikes an even more poised and poignant tone with The Visitor, in which Richard Jenkins's bored-out-of-his-mind economics professor, Walter Vale, comes to his seldom-visited New York apartment to find a couple living there. Reluctant to send them out on the street, he offers them to stay a few more days. He soon gains the confidence of Haaz Sleiman's djembe-playing Tarek, who gives him percussion lessons. They end up jamming in Central Park. Soon things go sour, though, as Tarek is arrested at the subway for a silly mistake. The problem is, though, he is an illegal immigrant and he is taken into a detention center in Queens. When she receives no news of his son, Tarek's mom, Mouna, shows up at Walter's apartment.

It's about immigration and the individuals that suffer through its bureaucracy. It is true that the film portrays a very favorable picture of immigrants who only want to live in the country, but McCarthy's film would rise above proudly from any anti-liberal-tirade that would be aimed at it from Tea Baggers. The cast are fantastic throughout - Jenkins, who was nominated for an Academy Award, is superb. But the real deal is Hiam Abbass's Mouna. Her stoic performance is the highlight of this wonderful dream. It is not the last say in immigration (El Norte comes to mind), but it is a highly effective film with a big heart. If the two films McCarthy has made are anything to go by, he is one of the most original voices in American cinema right now.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

I loved this film. Saw it a few months ago. Strikes an ironic chord for peeps like us, eh?

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