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This film may be the most melancholic, sad, depressing… and then uplifting, inspiring, invigorating I have seen in the last years. The story of a dull and depressed everyman (Walter could be right out of a Philip Roth novel, but he even lacks sexual obsessions and intellectual snobbism) who stumbles across the life he always wanted to lead by sheer accident when he finds a family of illegal immigrants squatting in his apartment (also accidentally, because they seem to have been conned by a middle man). Walther allows their slightly chaotic life to seep into his, enjoys the little adventures he can experience such as participating in a drum circle in central park and skipping university meetings. It is liberating to him even when he experiences the harsh side of his new friends’ life: the perennial feeling of being an outsider in the society they have chosen to be their home, the constant danger of arrest and deportation.
The Syrian drummer Tarek and his Somalian girlfriend Zainab are stand-ins for the pleasure but also the high cost of multi-cultural societies, and what makes “The Visitor” great as a movie is that it accepts both sides. Walter dives into this life, because he seems to realize that fighting the slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes is always better than being bored to death – Richard Jenkins’ fantastic performance manages to convey this, he gives us an aging academic mortally bored by life. Upon meeting the excessively alive Tarek, and Tarek’s beautiful and beautifully proud mother in particular who does not shy away from new challenges, Walter re-discovers life. Maybe too late, it is suggested, but it is also suggested that he may do a lot to catch up.

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