I had a sense of the premise of this movie since I first saw the movie previews: a guy who lives in Connecticut, Walter, doesn’t get to his apartment in NYC very often and when he finally does, he finds a couple living there. They are illegal aliens who were led to believe that they were legitimately subletting the apartment and shocked to see the real owner show up. But when Walter realizes they have no place to go and that he has no reason to need them to go, he lets them stay until they can find a new place.
Why would a button down widower professor be willing to let illegal aliens squat in his NYC apartment? As the movie unfolds, we are shown glimpses of Walter’s current existence and realize it is rather dull and he’s actually quite intrigued by the newness that the adventure of having roommates offers.
As for the illegals, Tarek and Zainab, seem to be more New York than Walter is. Eventually, Tarek is arrested for a misunderstanding and when it becomes apparent that he is an illegal alien, he’s locked up in a detention facility. We then get a glimpse into what I imagine to be a very realistic portrayal of the plight of immigrants in this country. Yes, illegal is illegal. But on the other hand, Tarek grew up in the United States and considers it his home. The fact that his Syrian mother was asked to leave the country a decade ago can hardly be blamed on him who is more New York than Walter.
And that’s when I realized that the title “The Visitor” doesn’t necessarily refer to Tarek or his girlfriend or his mother. In fact, the true visitor is Walter himself who gets a refreshing look at New York courtesy of Tarek as a guide and when he begins to fancy Tarek’s mother and goes on a date with her. And in fact, Walter gets a refreshing look at life, courtesy of the whole experience.
The movie does end with a bit of a downer as Tarek is deported and his mother chooses to follow leaving Walter without his new friend and his new muse. And while we aren’t left with any touching stories about how Walter lives happily ever after with Tarek and his mother, we do see that Walter is reinvigorated from the new glasses he gets to the final scene with him drumming in the subway. (I know that sounds strange, but watch the movie and you’ll see.)
Rating: 8 (out of 10)