Monday, August 24, 2009

The Visitor

Among the several good things about Netflix is how easy they have made it for us to watch movies for which we would not normally have either the time or, because of where we live, the access to conveniently see films that have limited release.

One such was the independent film, "The Visitor," written and directed by Thomas McCarthy, who also wrote and directed 2003's wonderful "The Station Agent." "The Station Agent" is really one of my favorite films, so artfully done. I had read good things about "The Visitor" and was pleased to find it in the mailbox.

One thing I had previously noticed was how "The Visitor" shares a similarity with the former movie in that reading the plot synopsis is completely misleading. Both feature simple, almost banal, stories that are, in fact, rich and deep, and are brilliantly and beautifully told.

Although "The Visitor" boldly violates one of my few but firm rules about what constitutes a "good" movie, I still must recommend it most highly. It centers on the the unlikely relationship that emerges among an interesting quartet of characters. The only recognizable actor is the lead, Richard Jenkins, and he is not a movie star. He's one of those guys you see 3-5 times a year in various minor roles and say, "Oh, yeah...that guy." In this movie, his work is very, very good as the tightly wound (and unwinding) professor Walter Vale.

Although each of the actors is strong, Hiam Abbas, an accomplished Palestinian actress from Israel, as Mouna Khalil, is especially striking in her role. Her performance is captivating, nuanced, complex, and powerful.

It is so seldom that a film can really successfully unpack a story as well, or develop characters as deeply as a book does, but that is what McCarthy does with "The Visitor." It is a difficult story, but one well worth telling. Here is a link to the trailer - check it out.

Rent this movie.


Bill Kinnon said...

I saw The Visitor when it premiered @ Sundance in '08. One of my two favourite films from that year. It caused me to purchase Station Agent - which is also fabulous.

McCarthy is a gifted writer/director.

kelli said...

I'll definitely add The Visitor to my Netflix queue - thanks for the recommendation!