Director: Thomas McCarthy
Cast: Richard Jenkins, Oliver Bokelberg, Hiam
Abbass, Maggie Moore
RunTime: 1 hr 43 mins
Released By: Festive Films
Rating: NC-16 (Some Coarse Language)
Official Website: http://www.festivefilms.com/thevisitor/
Opening Day: 11 December 2008
In a world of six billion people, it only takes one to change
your life. In actor and filmmaker Tom McCarthy's follow-up
to his award winning directorial debut "The Station Agent,"
Richard Jenkins ("Six Feet Under") stars as Walter
Vale, a disillusioned Connecticut economics professor whose
life is transformed by a chance encounter in New York City.
Through new found connections with virtual strangers, Walter
is awakened to a new world and a new life.
With a movie titled as “The Visitor” and a tagline that said “Connection is everything”, it shouldn’t be too far off to presume that this film is about getting out of one’s comfort zone and making that human connection with others. In those two aspects, The Visitor excelled in it’s subtle yet heart breaking and warming insight to passion in life over the backdrop of the immigration issues.
While it would appear that the Visitor(s) would refer to Walter Vale’s new found friends, met through the chance encounters in New York City, the title actually felt like it was refereeing to Walter himself. As someone who is a little past his prime, financially stable and stuck in a comfort zone, this film explores his visitation to a life that is very different to what he had been living.
First it demonstrates how he is starting to feel the boring dread of being stuck in a comfort zone and seeking to enrich his life. It also subtlety shows the mechanism of constructing a life in a comfort zone. That mechanism is like a system that automates in an anesthetized manner which gives very little leeway to compassion and out of the box rationale thinking. It also draws the stark contrast between Walter’s society and the different world out there that beckons him in this movie.
This film also deftly used the musical scores to phase Walter switch from someone who is in his comfort zone to someone who is visiting the unsettling worlds of America’s immigrant. Right before Walter took the first step in discovering a whole new musical world out there, the absence of any musical scores helped paint the sterile lifestyle that he was living. The musical scores started to flood the movie and stringing the audience emotions as he encounters the ups and downs of his visitation adventures.
The switch in Walter’s life (as the synopsis and trailer had stated) came from the unexpected group of people. A different class or society of people from Walter’s walk of life and yet The Visitor paints a believable and engaging bonding between these two very different people. Personally as a newbie with music, I been through a jamming session with folks who are proficient with musical instruments and had witness how these sessions could bond people from different lifestyles.
Connecting through the actual “visitors” of America, Walter begun to see another side of the unfeeling nature of the system that needs to be harsh in order to provide the safety for it’s citizen. Through the unexpected turmoil, The Visitor gave a strong emotional portrayal of such unlikely friendship and the length that one would go for each other.
The Visitor is one of the better films I seen this year but it is regrettably not for everyone. My partner felt that the trailer was much more exciting than the film and the pacing could get rather slow. However for those who enjoy the subtlety in drama and life changing tale, don’t miss The Visitor.
(The Visitor gave a gratifying lesson on friendship and passion for life)
Review by Richard Lim Jr