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"The Visitor" ***

May 22, 2008

Director Tom McCarthy seems to specialize in focusing on lonely souls who are transformed by the people they meet along the way. He wrote and directed one of my favorites, 2003's "The Station Agent", and he does the same here with this quiet little gem that will have you pondering the direction this country has taken in dealing with illegal immigrants in this post 911 era. Character actor Richard Jenkins delivers a superbly subdued performance as a bored disinterested Connecticut economics professor who, when forced to attend a conference in Manhattan, discovers 2 immigrants who are occupying his long unused apartment. What transpires is his slow attitudinal transformation in his acceptance toward his uninvited tenants and his realization that his life can be quite different and meaningful if only he would follow his instincts. The film nicely meanders along as the developing relationships evolve, until one of the tenants is abruptly thrown in a holding prison while awaiting his possible deportation. The film takes a heartbreaking turn as you witness an aspect of the immigration issue most of us didn't consider once it is no longer faceless.