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THE VISITOR

Director: THOMAS McCARTHY

U.S.A. • 2007 • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO. 105 MIN.


IT’S BEEN A FIVE-YEAR WAIT SINCE THE SPLENDID THE STATION AGENT, BUT WRITER-DIRECTOR TOM McCARTHY’S SECOND FEATURE IS ANOTHER MARVEL OF SUSTAINED CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT AND HUMANE DRAMA.
taking centre stage and thriving on the attention is stalwart hollywood supporting actor Richard Jenkins (also a regular on tv’s Six Feet Under), a lanky and lugubrious presence whose spot-on casting as an economics professor on autopilot teaching the same course ever since his concert pianist wife’s passing left him on his own. due in new York to deliver a paper at a conference, he’s taken aback to discover his rarely visited East village pied-à-terre is occupied by a couple of illegal immigrants, a Syrian percussionist (haaz Sleiman) and his Senegalese girlfriend (danai Guirra), who scrapes along selling costume jewellery at a street market. Obviously, the interlopers are trespassing, but Jenkins is a decent enough guy to cut them a break, and thus begins a subtle process by which destinies are interwoven, supposed barriers of class and nationality transcended. It’s definitely a more politicised film than The Station Agent, taking issue with the Bush regime’s immigration policies and their less-than-compassionate implementation; but while that gives it an underlying anger, for the most part the focus is on the unexpected connections between people rather than the realities which divide them. This is beautifully expressed in the subtle interplay between the slowly unfurling Jenkins and the great Palestinian actress hiam Abbass as his lodger’s concerned mother. Looks, silences and longings tell the story here in a film vividly alive to the emotional verities of the moment.—Trevor Johnston.
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