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The Visitor [Import]

Richard Jenkins , Haaz Sleiman , Thomas McCarthy    PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)   DVD
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Hailed as "one of the year's most intriguing dramas" (Claudia Puig, USA TODAY), The Visitor stars Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under) in a perfect performance (Lisa Schwarzbaum, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY) as Walter, a disaffected college professor who has been drifting aimlessly through his life. When, in a chance encounter on a trip into New York, Walter discovers a couple has taken up residence in his apartment in the city, he develops an unexpected and profound connection to them that will change his life forever. As challenges arise for his tenants, Walter finds himself compelled to help his new friends, and rediscovers a passion he thought he had lost long ago. The year's first genuine must-see film" (Ann Hornaday, THE WASHINGTON POST) about rediscovering life's rhythms in the most unexpected places

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a great movie! Sept. 11 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I thought this movie was creative and surprising and heartfelt. I really enjoyed it. As well, it wasn't violent - as so many movies are these days.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the Risk July 18 2010
Format:DVD
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It is a risk because it's not well known and will get bad reviews from some with different tastes. I felt the character development was wonderful, and the freedom the main character found and was able to express by playing the djembe was inspiring. For anyone who has dreamed of breaking free from the mundane and into artistic expression, you will be glad you took the time to watch this. Although there were parts of the story that were not all uplifting, overall, it was heartwarming and hopeful.
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0 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars ZZZZZzzzzzzz Sept. 1 2009
By Kona TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
When Connecticut professor Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) goes to stay in his long-empty New York apartment, he is surprised to find a young couple living in it. It seems Tarek and Zainab believed they were subletting the apartment when in fact, they were being scammed. Walter takes pity on them and lets them stay on for a while and slowly the three become friends. Then Tarek is detained by Immigration and a crisis ensues.

This drama centers around Walter who is newly-widowed, very depressed, and socially isolated. Jenkins captures his hopelessness well, but Walter is basically a very boring character. Jenkins was nominated for Best Actor, but I thought he showed no range of emotion at all. I didn't like Walter or care about him, nor did I have any empathy for the young couple in his apartment. All of the dialogue is delivered with unremitting melancholy and in such monotonous tones that I spent most of my time watching the clock, which never seemed to move.

The movie is tiresome and preachy and, worst of all, dull. Not recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  256 reviews
118 of 129 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Give me your tired, your poor... May 24 2008
By R. Kyle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Dr. Walter Vale's (Richard Jenkins) not interested in going to New York City to present a paper at a conference to help a fellow colleague and co-author. His own life takes precedence. Unfortunately, his dean doesn't see it that way.

When he arrives in New York, he discovers that someone's bathing in his tub. That would be Zainab (Danai Jekesai Gurira), a young Senegalese woman who is as surprised to see him as he is her. The person sleeping in one of his beds is Tarek (Haaz Sleiman), a young Syrian man who sublet Vale's neglected apartment from a person that Vale doesn't even know.

Vale cannot turn the pair out into the street, so he allows them to remain. As their acquaintance grows, Vale learns how to play the djembe from Tarek and also the plight of illegal aliens--particularly Muslim ones, post 9/11 after Tarek is erroneously arrested in the subway over jumping the turnstile.

One of the most heartbreaking scenes in this movie is when Vale takes Zaineb and Tarek's mother Moona (Hiam Abbass) to Staten Island. The women, who are both illegal, see the Statue of Liberty in all her glory. Zaineb relates how Tarek, who is now in detention, used to ride the ferry and jump up and down every time Lady Liberty came in sight pretending it was the first time to be in America.

Vale, who'd failed piano lessons four times, learns there's music in everyone's soul. If you can't play the piano, move on to another instrument until you find one whose music is in sync with your own rhythm.

My husband and I left "The Visitor" wishing there was more, hoping that there was a good outcome for the characters. In the lobby, we met a man who'd attended the Sundance Film Festival where "The Visitor" screened for the first time. He told us this was the only film that year that got a standing ovation. I understand why.

Rebecca Kyle, May 2008
42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars McCarthy's Small Film Shows Passion Can Be Found in the Most Unexpected Places April 21 2008
By Ed Uyeshima - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
A genuinely unexpected gem. As he proved with his first film as a director and screenwriter, 2003's The Station Agent, Thomas McCarthy knows how to convey the fine line between solitude and loneliness in his characters' lives with an emotional preciseness that doesn't call attention to itself. It's not surprising that McCarthy is an actor because he's able to capture the very subtle nuances in behavior in actors that make his work feel like Edward Hopper paintings come to life. As a result, you pay attention to a simple gesture, a passing glance, a resigned sigh. This time, his protagonist is Walter Vale, an enervated, middle-aged economics professor at a Connecticut college. Widowed and wholly lacking in professional motivation, he begrudgingly accepts an assignment to go to an academic conference at NYU and present a paper on globalization he really didn't write.

Coming back to a Greenwich Village flat he rarely uses, he is surprised to find a couple living there. Not squatters but unfortunate victims of a rental scam, they turn out to be illegal aliens, a Syrian percussionist named Tarek and his girlfriend Zainab, a Senegalese who makes and sells handcrafted jewelry. As withdrawn from life as Walter is, he slowly finds himself bonding with the couple and lets them stay indefinitely. Zainab is slow to trust Walter, but Tarek and Walter become close over a mutual love of African drums. As his wife was a famous classical pianist, Walter had been futilely attempting to find musical inspiration since her death. However, just as this charming tale of world harmony plays out, it comes back to harsh reality when Tarek is arrested and taken to a detention center in Queens for deportation. What McCarthy does from this point forward is show how sadly restrictive the post-9/11 environment has made immigration laws and how there is no recourse to be found under the constant surveillance of a bureaucratic government protected by the latitude of the Patriot Act.

None of this is hit over our heads with a politically motivated sledgehammer. Far from such polemics, the story singularly focuses on Walter's emergence of purpose in helping Tarek. When Tarek's mother Mouna arrives from Detroit, McCarthy adeptly shows how Walter's closeness to Tarek translates without condition to her. It's a moving transformation of a formerly lonely man finding intimacy in the most unlikely situation. In a once-in-a-lifetime role, character actor Richard Jenkins brings heart and soul to Walter in the most economical manner. Best known as the ghostly father in HBO's Six Feet Under, he has worked steadily in films for three decades, his most memorable turn being the gay FBI agent high on heroin in David O. Russell's Flirting With Disaster. With his constant look of resignation on the verge of revelation, Jenkins gives a wondrously poignant, often dryly funny performance that deepens as the story evolves.

Haaz Sleiman and Danai Gurira are terrifically winning as Tarek and Zainab, and they make their bonding with Walter more than credible. As Mouna, Hiam Abbass is no stranger to persevering maternal roles as she brought her particular brand of strength to Hany-Abu Assad's controversial Paradise Now and Eran Riklis' family dramedy, The Syrian Bride. In response to Walter's fumbling overtures, she affectingly conveys her character's resolute stillness and gradual blossoming. There are brief cameos by comic actor Richard Kind as Walter's unctuous neighbor, Deborah Rush as a wealthy and ignorant customer of Zainab's, and Broadway legend Marian Seldes as Walter's failed piano teacher. At first, I thought the film's title was blandly generic in describing those who are here from other lands, but I realize now that the visitor is really Walter as he discovers his soul. The last shot is memorable and captures the fury of his passion with potent force. Strongly recommended.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Visitor Movie Review April 4 2008
By thejoelmeister - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
With a highly inventive introduction to cheerfully mismatched characters, The Visitor is a daring look at the hopelessness of unfortunate immigration circumstances. Superbly acted and beautifully scored, the film doesn't back down from its touching subject matter and realistically tragic events, but instead infuses them with aptly-timed comic relief and the persuasive power of music and romance.

Bitter and bored college professor Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) travels to his New York apartment after being forced to attend a conference on global economization. Immediately he discovers a couple living in his home, and out of kindness and the appeal of company, he invites them to stay. Tarek Khalil (Haaz Sleiman) plays the drums, and soon gets the unsociable Walter to take up the instrument. Tarek's girlfriend Zainab is slower to acknowledge Walter's hospitality, but eventually warms to his presence.

When Tarek is arrested at the subway and taken to a detention center for illegal immigrants, Walter shows estimable concern for his newfound friend. Weighing his teaching job back in Connecticut against helping a man he's known for less than two weeks, Walter hires a lawyer to aid in Tarek's release. When Mrs. Khalil arrives to find out what's happened to her son, Walter finds himself rediscovering romance as well as what is truly important in his life.

Great care is taken to create sympathy for Tarek and Zainab, even though they are chiefly at fault for their uncertain positions. They've done nothing wrong in the eyes of the viewer, and its best that it stays that way - for the law they break is too complex to designate as morally right and wrong. The Visitor unflinchingly demonstrates the bleakness of their situation, and ensures that their story represents the likely majority of factual examples. The mocking sign "Know Your Rights" at the detention center foreshadows the unfortunate prejudices and consequences of an unsympathetic law. In the end, Walter's self-realization and inner revelations are the solace that must outshine his visitor's discouraging plights.

Richard Jenkins' acting is phenomenal, even though his role is to remove a wide array of emotions from his weathered face. Offering many scenes of comedy relief and the amusing rediscovery of long-abandoned romance, Jenkins delivers a wholly believable character that is relatable and easily liked. His distaste for his work and his discontent with life gives his eventual recognition of purpose even more of a cinematic edge. And being a mismatched companion and an unlikely friend lends to further depth and appeal. Though Tarek and Zainab are the first visitors and Mrs. Khalil after that - truly Walter is the visitor to their world - one he was previously completely oblivious to.

Part romance, part comedy and many parts drama, The Visitor presents moral conflict with the faceless evils of uncaring laws and heartfelt bonding between a weary, lonely man and a free-spirited musician. While the film slows in a few spots, the constant interjection of humor safely guarantees that audiences won't lose interest. The Visitor is an uncommonly sincere film that manages to mix harsh realism with crowd-pleasing entertainment.

- Mike Massie
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Visitations to life Dec 5 2008
By Sanpete - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This is a quiet, intensely felt and well observed film about how chance and small choices lead to life changes, happy and sad. It's about very different people being thrown together. It's about a husk of a man being drawn back into life.

Oh, and it has a political element about immigration. If you think that may bother you, please read on--you have no real cause for worry. No political view was harmed in the making of this movie.

Walter (Richard Jenkins) is a 62-year-old economics professor who is drained of life. He takes piano lessons, perhaps in a vain effort to connect somehow with his deceased pianist wife, but he has no great talent and gets no joy from it; he teaches a class, but no one enjoys that; he doesn't really work on his book.

A chance occurrence takes Walter from his home in Connecticut to his apartment in New York City where, in an unexpectedly generous moment (which makes sense as presented), he gives place to two young immigrants, Tarek (Haaz Sleiman), a man from Syria who makes his living playing the djembe (an African drum), and girlfriend Zainab (Danai Gurira), a jewelry maker from Senegal. Walter is drawn in by Tarek's drum and sunny open-heartedness, finding in the more elemental spirit of the drum what he lacked with the piano. As Tarek teaches him to play, the juices of life begin to flow again.

Another chance occurrence lands Tarek in a detention center for undocumented immigrants. From this point, about halfway into the film, the treatment of illegal immigrants becomes a theme. This brings Tarek's mother, Mouna (Hiam Abbass) into the picture, whose presence furthers Walter's revival.

It may seem strange to say, but the political theme about the treatment of illegal immigrants, especially those from the Muslim world post September 11th, is one-sided but not unfair. That is, because of the point of view of the movie, Walter's point of view, we only see a small part of the complex issues relating to immigration. What we do see is presented accurately, without blaming anyone; there are no villains; no political stance or attitude is made to look bad; no hint of a political program is suggested as to how to deal with illegal immigrants. This country, and New York City in particular, is presented as a vibrant, desirable place. The only political act is to give the immigrant a sympathetic human face, and to show how implacable and dehumanized the immigration system can be.

The role of Walter was written for Jenkins, who was nominated for an Oscar for it--quite an accomplishment for a small, non-Hollywood film. He starts off cold and doing some unsympathetic things, yet he manages to capture our sympathy. I was especially impressed by Sleiman's perfectly natural and irresistible Tarek. He makes not only his own role believable, but everyone else's--it's easy to see why others would interact with him as they do. And I was struck by the understated beauty and power of Abbass, as Tarek's mother. It's a pleasure just to see her on screen. The other main role, Gurira's Zainab, is also drawn most effectively.

Writer/director Tom McCarthy, who is an actor himself, called on a lot of fine actors to play the small roles, so every character is interesting and engaging.

The audio commentary with McCarthy and Jenkins focuses mostly on how the film was made, with only the occasional remark about the meaning. I found it interesting, but I learned more about the ideas behind and in the film in some of the many interviews with McCarthy and Jenkins I found online. The Inside Look featurette is short and slight; the deleted scenes are also brief, but add a bit. The featurette on playing the djembe includes interviews with the man who taught Sleiman, Jenkins and, before that, McCarthy himself to play, along with input from the actors.

One point that came up in many interviews I read, but is only barely touched on in the audio commentary, is the meaning of the title. So as not to spoil anything I'll just suggest that it has many meanings through the film, so don't be stingy in applying it wherever it seems to fit.

This film is a treat for those who like character studies, especially ones that focus on the struggles, triumphs and losses of ordinary, basically good people. It won't give anything away to say that the ending is both heartbreaking and hopeful. Like the best movies of its kind, it made me feel more deeply who I am and what it is to be human.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rediscovering Life through an Unusual Turn of Events. Oct. 16 2008
By mirasreviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
"The Visitor" is the second film in which writer/director Tom McCarthy presents an emotionally perceptive story of relationships that develop between people who meet by chance. Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) is a widowed economics professor who takes no interest in anything at this stage of his life. When he reluctantly travels to New York to present a paper at a conference, he is surprised to find a young couple living in the Manhattan apartment that he seldom uses. Tarek Khalil (Haaz Sleiman), a musician from Syria, and his Senegalese girlfriend Zainab (Danai Gurira) have illegally sublet the apartment. They are apologetic and eager to avoid trouble, but Walter invites them to stay until they find another place. Walter finds himself irresistibly drawn to Tarek's African drum and deeply concerned about the couple's plight when their immigration status is discovered.

There is a political statement here about the inflexibility of immigrations law, especially for Muslims, since the events of 9/11. But the story is Walter's re-engagement in life. It's a pleasure to watch him find some reason to do something after years of apathy. Tarek's drums, his incarceration, and finally Tarek's elegant and worried mother Mouna (Hiam Abbass) bring Walter to life, with the help of a restrained performance by Richard Jenkins. Hiam Abbass has fantastic presence and evokes great sympathy as a self-contained woman who blames herself for her son's problems. I would recommend the film for her appeal alone. But Mouna and Walter are both interesting characters, isolated in their own way, from different subcultures, who have collided with unexpected results. "The Visitor" is a character study with strong elements of both optimism and pessimism.

The DVD (Anchor Bay 2008): Both widescreen and full screen versions are on the same disc. Bonus features are 2 featurettes, a theatrical trailer, 4 deleted scenes with optional commentary, and a feature commentary by writer/director Tom McCarthy and actor Richard Jenkins. "An Inside Look at The Visitor" (5 min) interviews the director and cast about characters and themes. "Playing the Djembe" (7 1/2 min) interviews McCarthy and djembe coach Mohammad Naseehu Ali about the drum and his involvement in the film, as well as Richard Jenkins and Haaz Sleiman about their characters and training on the drum. The commentary by McCarthy and Jenkins is not constant, but it doesn't have large gaps. They talk about sets, locations, cast, and their recollections of filming. Subtitles for the film available in English SDH.
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