Prime Cinema, surprisingly, is showing a rather low-key indie flick called The Visitor, and it blew my mind that a Jordanian cinema would show something for the sake of art rather than money. I was sure that there was some mistake but, nevertheless, I decided to take the bait and catch the late showing on the second day of Eid.
The film by Thomas McCarthy, who brought us the award-winning The Station Agent, tells a pretty interesting story of a professor who seems to have lost the spark in life. Played by Richard Jenkins, Walter travels to New York one day to give a reading of a paper he co-wrote. In his city apartment, which he seems to have abandoned since his wife’s death, he finds two unexpected squatters: Tarek and Zainab, a Syrian and a Sengalese respectively. He forms an unlikely friendship with the couple, while Tarek, a musician, teaches Walter to play the djembe drum and even bringing him that spark he’s been looking for. Unexpectedly, Tarek is arrested and it’s discovered that he is an illegal immigrant and so he is detained.
It’s rather a quiet story that is very realistic and very solemn. There are no real bold political statements, other than, perhaps, a debate as to the fairness of America’s immigration policies in a post 9/11 world, which I think was something McCarthy was trying to fit in somewhere. However, at the heart of it, there is an unlikely friendship that presents itself to an aging, jaded man, and that friendship is quickly tested in just a matter of days. It’s also fairly realistic in the sense that it’s not predictable and does not take the audience where they think it might go. Jenkins, probably best known for playing the dead father on HBO’s Six Feet Under and more recently as Will Farrell’s step-dad in Step Brothers, gives a pretty great performance that might fly under the radar of an Oscar nomination.
It is probably one of the best indie flicks I’ve seen in a long time. It’s definitely worth checking out and kudos to Prime for actually showing it, although I’m still convinced someone in management thought “The Visitor” was some sci-fi movie about aliens coming to town. Take me to your leader.
A solid 4/5