Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Visitor

Tom McCarthy, 2008 (9.1*)
This is an excellent little indie film, with some powerful performances by the entire cast. Richard Jenkins, an overlooked character actor (he played the dead father’s ghost on Six Feet Under), received a well-deserved Oscar® nomination for best actor for his best career role. Director Tom McCarthy (Central Station) has written an intelligent and emotionally gripping screenplay about the plight of immigrants here, especially Muslims, affected severely by the backlash created by the 9/11 disaster. The story also shows how people can still mange to communicate and understand each other in spite of different backgrounds, in this case with music as the common link.

Jenkins plays a Connecticut professor, Walter, in New York to give a paper, and when he arrives at his seldom-used apartment, a young couple is living there: a man, Tarek (Haaz Sleiman in his first role), a djembe (hand-made west African goatskin drum) drummer from Syria, and his girlfriend, a street vending jewelry-maker from Senegal. Walter befriends the couple, begins drumming with Tarek’s tutelage, and later tries to help Tarek with his immigration status. The actress Hiam Abbass (Munich) is especially touching as Tarek’s mother, who shows up from Michigan to help her son, and grudgingly becomes friends with Walter. This is well-done all around, not sentimental or mundane in the least, and uses drumming as a metaphor for the universality of the heartbeat and a method of non-verbal communication between different cultures.


Kogi Kaishakunin May 14, 2009 at 7:26 AM  

Interestingly Richard Jenkins does know how to play the drums. So he had to act like a bumbling amateur trying to learn for the first time :)

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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