Keeping in mind the travel theme of Tango Diva postings, I chose the film “The Visitor” to review.
Even though the entire film takes place in and around NYC, a major subtext is how lucky we are to have the freedom to travel. If you are a US citizen you can also experience the guilt and shame of our rigid post-911 immigration policies.
Didn’t mean to get all heavy on you in the first paragraph. I swear this is a highly entertaining film. If you missed Thomas McCarthy’s earlier amazing film “Station Agent”, add that to your NetFlix rotation and go to a real live theater to support “The Visitor”.
This is one of those stories that stay with you. Love that.
On the surface, “The Visitor” is a rumination on loneliness. A middle-aged professor from Connecticut is followed sleep walking through his life after the death of his wife. He pretends to be working on his book and studying the piano, neither of which he has any passion for.
He makes a long delayed visit to his NYC apartment to deliver a speech he pretended to have co-written. Our professor puts his key in the lock, heads down the hall, opens the bathroom door and surprises a terrified Sudanese woman taking a bath.
Here’s where the plot takes a 180. A Syrian musician and his jewelry making girlfriend thought they were renting this apartment from someone named Ivan. Turns out they were scammed and now have nowhere to turn.
In a never seen before burst of compassion the professor offers to share housing with this young couple. They couldn’t be more different in temperament or culture. Seems they are just what the doctor ordered for our uptight white man. His world comes alive as he gets increasingly more involved in their lives. When the musician gets arrested in the subway for jumping the turnstile even though he actually paid, our protagonist exudes righteous indignation and assumes everything will be straightened out in no time.
Instead, things get worse when it is revealed the musician is in the country illegally.
In walks the professor’s mother, having flown in from Michigan because she hasn’t heard from her boy in five days.
I don’t want to reveal any more, only want to applaud the filmmaker for giving us a picture of how the world changes when we discover the humanity in one another and act upon it. You may not join the Peace Corps but you will think twice the next time you get in a cab with your third-world driver.