The Visitor is a great movie of both powerful writing and acting. First the basic story: Walter Vale is a lonely, burned-out college professor who meets a young couple when he shows up at his city apartment and finds the two living there. Okay, so it’s a device: the couple are the victim of a scam; they thought they had rented the apartment. Obviously, the three become friends, and this opens up Vale in some interesting ways. The major theme revolves around Vale seeing the meaningless of his life — and then finding meaning in new friends and hobbies.
Politically, the movie is a sustained and emotional critique of America’s immigration policies. The couple are immigrants and in the country illegally. Vale’s anger at irrational and immoral U.S. immigration restrictions is powerfully portrayed by actor Richard Jenkins, who is amazing in the film (as are the other major actors).
Not long ago I was talking with a smart, well-educated, affable European — who may not be able to stay in the country. I’ve heard enough maddening immigration stories that The Visitor steamed me. Indeed, the film’s strong political theme is also a distraction, for those of us who care about this issue. See it, whether in spite of or because of the film’s politics.