Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"The Visitor" (2008) - Movie Review

There are films that I like and films that I would like to write. “The Visitor” would be the latter. Nothing more or less but the exact simplicity it has and the ending of a short story I would like to write. Tom McCarthy’s directorial debut “The Station Agent” is about three people with no commonality come together to form a friendship and a little more and in “The Visitor” the same happens, a little bit tragic than the former. It unravels the pain of stealing away a life formed on the basis of right to reside on the longevity of the stay and a hope that worst would not happen. It deals with the deportation procedure in the United States but that is one part of this mellow film with gentleness much like its protagonist Walter (Richard Jenkins).

Walter a professor living in Connecticut and who has spent most of his life in teaching and writing books is compulsively made to visit New York for attending a conference. He has an apartment in the city which he no more visits because it reminds of his late wife. He does not tell it but it is obvious. His apartment is squatted by a couple Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) from Syria and his wife Zainab (Danai Jekesai Guirra) from Senegal. In a good gesture Walter lets them stay for couple of days till they find a place. In a dead beat conference which he is not interested, Walter is involved and drawn to the Djembe Tarek has. Djembe is a percussion instrument played with bare hands and a sound reminding of the dance of African tribal dance we would have seen in Discovery or National Geographic. In couple of days Walter gets a great teacher and a good friend in Tarek. Events leads to the arrest of Tarek of being illegal immigrant and is kept in a detention center. Since Zainab is not a citizen, Walter begins to visit and soon is hosting Tarek’s mother Mouna (Hiam Abbass) too in his apartment.

McCarthy’s “The Station Agent” had the power of time warping without getting boring. The scenes are not dramatic but a weight remained consistently in the people involved carrying inside them and delivers in terse conversations. There is sadness in their existence but not in the regularity of it. In the life of being busy and getting on with the life of social mundane happenings, the avalanche in the assimilation of those wishful desires begin to loom along with the age. Suddenly it is twenty years with everything being denied on the basis of too old to. Walter, a widower finds a rhythm provided by Tarek and begins to follow it. And in the smile of Tarek and Mouna in her unadorned nature invites his attention to it.

More than the subtle sorrow of the situation, the genuine smile McCarthy brings up when Walter plays along with Tarek is the sweetest thing. And how easily is he able to slow down the vibrant New York by the people is a fact of how much it draws on the people it cares. Walter and Mouna like each other which starts as respect and ends with both of them falling in love of their respect is a thin line to walk on. In any other film it would have turned into paramount of awkwardness but not with McCarthy as he understands these people and more than that he respects his characters as they do with each other.

“The Visitor” has two dramatic pauses for Walter. When he dines with Mouna and explains his life of existence and when he finally spills out the anger and unfairness happening to good people by the operation of the system. Both the cases the integrity of Jenkins in giving Walter is precious. For once we actually do not know how this calm and lonely person would react. In fact Walter himself does not know how to show his anger which agonizes him and frustrates him more. Jenkins gives all those without stepping even an inch out of the story and the character.

“The Visitor” tells the tragedy of deportation rigidity and the randomness of it in post 9/11 America. Where legality and citizenship stand when some one has assumed their home and begin to make plans and find shelter in a land which is not their origin of birth. In a doubt filled and paranoid world, trust would be the word forgotten. Doubt can twist the facts to make it sustain and reside in a person. That is the era of invisibility internet creates in the closeness it promotes. As Tarek says, he is a regular man wanting to live his life and play music. It is a small world, a phrase made true by the advancement in the technology of communication but how much we have distanced from each other because of it?

“The Visitor” is a wonderful film and it is still growing on me. It has the lightness in presentation and ingenuity in the emotions of its characters. It appears to be a self discovery of lonely person the indie flicks loves to explore and the film loves it too with a help from other characters who are there for a reason rather than a plot pusher. And the self discovery of Walter is neither the cheery boasting clapping scenarios nor the overly subtle untold emotions morphing into arrogance. It is as simple as it can get and as rich in emotions it could be presented with lucidity for knowing its characters.


Barath said...

Awesome screenplay and direction. The mood of the characters grows onto the viewers and makes it a wonderful experience to watch.It was a treat watching it with family! Great Movie and thanks for the DVD!

Ashok said...

You should watch "The Station Agent". Previous film of this director.