Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Visitor

We find out almost immediately who this man is: he's a college professor who professes no love or even like for his students; he's a man who plods slowly towards his next class, the same class he's been giving for over 20 years now; he moves less toward anything and more away. To be honest, if he even made an effort to be good at his craft, or interesting in the eyes of his colleagues or students, he'd be irritating. He's not even that.

Against his will, Professor Walter Vale travels to New York for a conference, goes to the apartment he used to share with his wife, and discovers two people living there. He lets them stay for a few days once he finds out that they have no place to go, and finds that he likes them. Their circumstances reveal themselves, he steps in to act, and thus begins his metamorphosis.

As you can guess from the opening, it's a slow-moving film, almost languorous, but effectively so. The action takes place slowly, so slowly that we are convinced of it, for we know that Walt never does anything quickly. He never just reacts. But when his young friends find themselves in difficulty, events which bring about a surprise visit from the young man's mother, he almost can't control what comes tumbling out.

I have to say that this film represented my metamorphosis as well. I was not prepared to care so much for the young couple, and especially for Walt, especially upon seeing how cruelly he reacts to his students. And yet I enjoyed watching Walt fight off his inhumanity and start a series of actions that will inexorably change him.

The acting is wonderful, from the oft-recognized Richard Jenkins to new actors Haaz Sleiman as energetic and youthful Tarek, and Danai Jekesai Gurira as the deep-feeling young woman Zainab. And Hiam Abbass as the mother is spell-binding, really easy to watch and surprising in her every move.

Who is the visitor? He is, visiting his own life, visiting others, visiting new friends in an immigration center hidden deep within Queens.

I found the film delightful, opening slowly to reveal itself as a budding flower.

Thumb's up.


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