Tear down that wall

The Visitor, directed by Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent), is the story of a man (Richard Jenkins) cranking open his rusty heart. A withdrawn, listless widower, Walter Vale encounters a pair of illegal immigrants (one from Syria, one from Senegal) living in his unused New York apartment. (New Yorkers’ emotions may run high when they see the size of the place he’s wasting.) The immigration issue is more than just a subplot; it reflects the whole theme of the film–when he welcomes them in, he benefits more profoundly than they do. The drum lessons are just the beginning.

But don’t think it’s going to be dragging you through a sentimental swamp; it’s too quietly intelligent for that. Much as Walter sympathizes with the couple, Tarek and Zainab, he’s on the outside of their troubles. He can walk away. When he doesn’t, it doesn’t make him a hero; it merely restores his humanity.

Highly recommended.

3 Responses to “Tear down that wall”

  1. […] to Tom McCarthy for winning a Spirit Award for Best Director for The Visitor, which was my third favorite movie of 2008. Various Spirit Award nominations also went to Chop […]

  2. […] aside: this made me think again about the movie The Visitor. Is it just another feel-good-liberal choir-preaching? To me, it feels honest. It’s not that […]

  3. cheeseblab says:

    Yes, one of my favorite films of the year so far. McCarthy is careful not to get on a soapbox, but Tarek’s cry from behind the glass of the detention center–“It’s not fair!”–echoing as it does a timeless mantra of the schoolyard playground, is, for all its naïveté, inarguable, and Walter’s face reflects the despair of all of us who have seen Emma Lazarus’s hopeful verse edited beyond recognition: Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free? Sorry, we’re all out of oxygen here.