Movie review: The Visitor

Okay, so let me start by saying I don’t have a system for reviewing movies. I mean to say I don’t have a rating system. I guess I could just use the 5-star Netflix. Or a 10 scale system. Or thumbs up/thumbs down. But no, I think I’ll just write what I thought about the movie. So here we go… (I should note, I don’t do “after the jump” on this blog and I’m not posting huge bolded “spoiler warnings” prior to parts of the review that “spoil” things.) I made an Amazon affiliate account, so clicky click and help me out.

The Visitor [Blu-ray | DVD| Video On Demand]

I really enjoyed “The Visitor.” The plot is pretty straightforward. A lonely widower going through the motions of life happens across of illegal immigrants squatting in his New York apartment. He makes a connection with one of them (Tarek) via music, and his life is changed.

Richard Jenkins is a veteran character actor seen in many movies. He played the lead role of Walter Vale. I thought his work here was excellent, save one point. Vale’s transformation from the uptight, lonely guy to more than competent drummer seemed a little too seamless. You could argue that he was a natural drummer, had drumming in his heart, and all of that, but that doesn’t just fly for me. The growing friendship between Vale and Tarek is played out through small scenes of their time together. And by the time Tarek is deported, you can see Vale’s anger and confusion.

Haaz Sleiman as Tarek was excellent as well. His sunny disposition and joy about his music was refreshing. Tarek’s change while in the detention center was something to behold. You could see on Sleiman’s face how much being locked up was wearing on Tarek, how it was changing him. It was sad to see.

The performances by the female leads, Danai Jekesai Gurira (as Tarek’s girlfriend Zainab) and Hiam Abbass (as Tarek’s mother Mouna Khalil), were very strong as well. I thought Gurira did as much as she could with a fairly small role. I think any guy (and girl) could relate to the relationship between Zainab and Tarek. In what was given very small amounts of screen time, you saw a lot of their relationship and it was something I’m sure everyone can relate to.

Abbass as Mouna was excellent as well. She had the quiet strength of a woman who had a hard life. I didn’t quite buy the burgeoning relationship between Mouna and Vale, but it wasn’t outside the realm of possibilities.

The performances made this movie. I think it made the most of its run time. I can’t figure out if this movie needed another 10 minutes or so. Looking back on it, the movie was more of a photo album. You saw the progression of the relationships through specific moments in time, without the bits in between. I don’t know, for this movie at least, showing those in between bits would add to the movie. Usually I think it’s better to show the progression of relationships rather than flashpoints that show the end results. Here I think it worked fairly well.

I would recommend this movie.

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