Complete A-Z list

Visitor, The


Stars: Richard Jenkins, Danai Gurira, Haaz Sleikan, Hiam Abbass, Marian Seldes, Maggie Moore, Michael Cumpsty

Director: Tom McCarthy

A touching, engrossing study of Walter, a widowed college professor (ace character actor Jenkins predictably excelling in a rare leading role) who reluctantly accepts an assignment in New York. where he has an apartment he rarely visits, to read a colleague's paper.

At the flat, he finds an illegal immigrant couple, Syrian man Tarek (Sleikan) and Senegalese girl Zainab (Gurira), who have been conned into renting the vacant premises. On a whim, Walter invites them to remain. He learns the bongo drums from Tarek and stays in the city longer than he intended.

The unexpected idyll, however, is shattered when Tarek is arrested and threatened with deportation. His mother, Mouna (Abbass), also in the country illegally, arrives, and together she and Walter fight to keep Tarek in the USA.

When Walter and Mouna become emotionally attached, we think we can see where this is headed. But writer-director McCarthy (who made The Station Agent) chooses to go another way - not necessarily to the benefit of the film, as it introduces an anti-climactic feel to the ending.

Performances are all refreshingly natural and audience-friendly: everyone here seems like a real person.

David Quinlan

USA 2007. UK Distributor: Halcyon Pictures/Miracle Communications. Technicolor.
102 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 25 Jun 2008