The Visitor, 2007
Starring Richard Jenkins, Haaz Sleiman, Danai Jekesai Gurira, and Hiam Abbass.
Synopsis (from NetFlix):
Widowed professor Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins, in an Oscar-nominated role) discovers an immigrant couple, Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and Zainab (Danai Gurira), squatting in his Manhattan flat and becomes wrapped up in their lives when Tarek is thrown into a detention center. A wonderful Hiam Abbass co-stars as Tarek’s mother, who forges an unlikely connection with Walter. Director Thomas McCarthy’s indie drama was nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards.
My Thoughts (warning… after paragraph one there be spoilers):
First of all, wow. When I finished watching this movie I wanted to run and hug every member of my family. Unfortunately nobody was home. This movie does not sugar coat. I would still call it a “feel good” movie, despite it’s painfully realistic ending, and highly recommend it to all who have not seen it. It is an example of when art can transcend and speak to the soul, at least for me. And with that, onto the content and discussion.
The film opens with scenes from Walter’s (Richard Jenkins) life. It becomes pretty clear early on that he is a sad and isolated person, a widower who has not gotten over his wife’s death and has been living much of his life on auto-pilot. I think this can happen to a lot of us, especially in grief. Depression runs rampant in America as we all struggle to connect, to find our place and purpose in life. It can be overwhelming to feel so alone.
He strives to learn the piano, which we discover later was his late wife’s instrument. Music is his way of reaching out and trying to stay connected, and when he fails to perfect the piano his hope seems lost. People often talk about the power of music, and it is true that it can uplift us.
We, verily, have made music as a ladder for your souls, a means whereby they may be lifted up unto the realm on high… ~
It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens. ~
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
In this modern world, with global travel and the internet, everyone has become our neighbors. We may not be able to solve the large problems, after all the security became tight in response to terrorism, but we can work on the small ones. Tarik did by helping Walter through a difficult time, and through showing love and compassion. Walter did the same by trying his best to support Tarik, even if all he could do was visit.
There are small things we can all do, whether it is visiting a neighbor, or trying to learn more about other cultures and peoples, that can help the world through this time of transition. We are no longer tribes, or even countries, but the world as one, and this film tried to wrestle with a topic we are all wrestling with in one way or another.