Friday, May 20, 2011

The Visitor, written and directed by Tom McCarthy

As we head toward the summer blockbuster movie season with its annual parade of movies that reflect studio executives' profit dreams more than any desire to make good movies, I suggest finding some low-budget independent films more likely to inspire and entertain. Bonnie brought home such a film recently, The Visitor, written and directed by Tom McCarthy. Film fans may remember McCarthy's The Station Agent, an offbeat comedy from 2003. The Visitor features another socially awkward protagonist who seeks to be alone. Professor Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) has not done any real work in years. He teaches only one class so he will have time to write his book - a book that he has been writing for a long time. Being a widower and truly missing his wife, he is disconnected from nearly every one. The dean of the department, however, decides that Vale is the one person free to present a paper at a conference in New York City, where Vale happens to own an apartment that he has not visited in years.

When Vale enters his apartment late at night, he finds a foreign couple who have been living there thinking that they have been paying rent to the legitimate owner. After they leave, Vale find an item they left behind and pursues them. Seeing their need, he invites them back for a few days. What follows is a story that could be true. In fact, I hope some people do act as nobly as Vale, the couple, and the young man's mother, played by Hiam Abbass who was recently in the Israeli film The Lemon Tree.

I do not want to give away the plot, so I'll just add that the acting is superb. When the film ended, I enjoyed checking on the actors' credits in the Internet Movie Database. Most are known for their work in television instead of film, especially the actress who played an elderly piano teacher. She was a frequent guest on all the classic TV shows of the 1950s - Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, etc.

The Visitor. Anchor Bay Entertainment, 2008. ISBN 9786312314776

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