Movie Review | The Visitor

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


  • Salaams:

    LOL to the last line…

    I saw this on the flight from the US to Jordan a few weeks ago. Perhaps someone at Prime was on that flight route and saw it too? I thought it was a nice little movie, and I was pleasantly surprised to see it on a Delta flight. The ending is beautiful. It’s now out on DVD in the US (which may mean it’s :: koff :: out on DVD here as well).

  • I was soo surprised seeing it playing at Prime too, as i watched it in the US at theater for independent films only, it was not played in big chain theaters. I am very happy that such a movie made its way here (regardless if it was a mistake or not:)) I loved the parallel that this movie tried to create between the struggles that the American professor faces in his life and that of the immigrants. Regardless of the not so realistic love story between the mother and the professor, i thought its the first time that a movie makes a really good job going deep into the small “normal” details of the lives of illegal immigrants rather than alienating them.

  • Besides the fact that the last line was probably a tad too condescending (it would be silly to assume that a cinema manager is not in the know about indie films, especially since the film got really good reviews).

    But anyway, yes he was EXCELLENT in Six Feet Under. What a brilliant show. I’d like to see Alan Ball’s (the creator of Six Feet Under) Towelhead in Amman though!!!

  • PH: It wasn’t meant to be condescending, it was meant to be sarcastic.

    UmmZaid: nah, it’s not on DVD here yet, but I’m sure if someone requested it…

    Reem: bil 3aks, I thought the relationship between Walter and Muna was not so far-fetched. I think the ending, which in a normal hollywood movie would only go in one predictable direction, demonstrated how closer to reality it was.

  • I have the Station Agent. That film was a treat. Umm Z, wanna borrow it? My sister keeps me hooked up with the good indie films.

    Would like to see this one.

  • You liked it, huh? I thought it seemed like a cool story, but wasn’t impressed by the trailer (then again, the trailer for “Serenity” downright sucked, and that’s a Favourite Of All Time kind of movie for me).

    Richard Jenkins is pretty sweet.

  • Good simple story and some awesome dialog. Performances are truly fantastic – those roles were all so well cast. I liked the dynamic between Walter/Muna, and Muna/Zeinab. “But she’s so black” was priceless….Arab racism at its best! Walter’s character transformation is brilliant. And I think the score is really exceptional – loved it.

    It’s a Participant Productions film. These guys are great. They make films for all the right reasons, and their films that I’ve seen are favorites: Chicago 10, Good Night & Good Luck, Murderball, The World According to Sesame Str, An Inconvenient Truth, Charlie Wilson’s War… The story/writing of each of these is brilliant.

    Thanks for the review!

  • “…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…”

    That’s exactly why it doesn’t happen. People have no faith in their own country, culture, and selves.

    Why should it be surprising?

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