Walter (played by Richard Jenkins) appears to be lonely. He is a book writer, a part-time professor, has a home in Connecticut and one in New York, has an interest for learning the piano and is knowledgeable, yet quiet. He was once married but his wife has passed away. He feels like he is not doing anything with his life and that if he goes to New York (a place where he has not been to for years) that he can find other ways to keep himself occupied. However, in his home in New York, a young couple appears to be already living in his apartment.
The two couples in the apartment are Tarek (played by Haaz Sleiman) and Zainab (played by Danai Gurira). Tarek is a syrian musician and Zainab is a Senegalese street vendor. The director Tom McCarthy has the characters try to remain happy yet nervous at the same time to give the sense that Tarek and Zainab may be nice people (which they are) but that there are some other problems that arise. Tarek is held in a detention center for illegal immigration. Now Walter’s friendship is shifting to really like Tarek and has a sense of his music talent. This makes Walter do what he can to try and get Tarek out of the detention center.
All illegal immigration issues are a challenge to get through, paperwork and documentation allows the viewers to realize that Tarek is not a bad person and does not deserve to be in a detention center. Tarek is someone who wants to live the joys of playing his music in New York, but for him that is being kept from him since he is locked up. Also Zainab is worried that this could keep them from ever returning to a place they love the most.
“The Visitor” goes between conversation to conversation between both Walter and Tarek simultaneously to figure out how Tarek can be released from the detention center. From Walter’s point of view, he feels that Tarek just lacked in documentation before returning to the states. Tarek on the other hand sees that he is viewed as a terrorist (which he is not). Tarek believes that the U.S. does not care about other people and that they are just keeping him captive for the fun of it. Both Walter and Tarek have a variety of aspects only geared on one focus to try and get Tarek out. They think just whining all the time to the authorities is the only way to solve problems.
“The Visitor” is brilliant. The friendship that Tarek and Walter make is just a feel good movie. It is one not to be missed. Especially when one is trying to find a good movie to watch at home. Three and a half stars.