Box art for The Visitor

The Visitor

drama


Walter (Academy-Award®-nominee Richard Jenkins) is a disaffected college professor who has been drifting aimlessly through his life.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
    89%
  • Audience Score
    84%

common sense

ON for kids age 13
Consumerism
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
3 out of 5
Language
3 out of 5
Positive messages
3 out of 5
Sex
0 out of 5
Violence
0 out of 5

Insightful drama shatters post-9/11 stereotypes.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that this thoughtful drama -- which celebrates the diversity of other cultures -- explores the hot-button issue of immigration. There's a little bit of swearing and some drinking, but overall the content is age-appropriate for teens, though very sensitive kids may be upset by the fact that the story doesn't spare the heartbreak that comes when families are separated abruptly. Characters pay dearly for their mistakes, even accidental ones. It's clear that the filmmaker has a strong point of view about U.S. policy since 9/11, but he attempts to be fair and even-handed.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about the wide range of attitudes toward people who are in the U.S. illegally. How do you think the filmmaker feels about the immigrant characters he has created? What contributions do they make to their adopted country? Does this movie change any of your ideas about people and families from the Middle East and Africa? What about immigration in general? What do you think the movie's final message is?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

  • Tomatometer®

    89%
    reviews counted: 28
    see all The Visitor reviews
  • Audience

    84%

Top Critic Reviews

Fresh: The Visitor gives viewers a perceptive, deeply personal take on the timeless immigrant narrative, in which the most epic journey is finally one of self-discovery.

- Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, Thursday, April 17, 2008

Fresh: The astonishing sensitivity with which Richard Jenkins approaches his role is nicely complimented by the performances of other cast members.

- Brian Webster, Apollo Guide, Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fresh: At first glance Walter isn't a guy you want to spend two hours with. But by the end of the film, you don't want to see him go. Jenkins is like that: He sneaks up on you and steals your heart with light-fingered skill.

- Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer, Friday, May 2, 2008

Audience Reviews

4 stars

The Visitor is a simple and gentle film that explores many issues, from immigration to loneliness. The film tells the story of Walter, an economics professor who, since his wife died, has lost any interest in life. His days are filled with joyless routine. Returning to New York to attend a conference, he finds a young foreign couple living in his apartment. Tarek and Zainab are from Syria and Senegal respectively and were fooled into renting the apartment illegally. Walter however, allows them to stay, mostly out of pity, but also out of interest in Tarek's african drum. Walter's late wife was a professional piano player and Walter had been trying in the years since her death to learn to play the instrument. The drum speaks to him in a way the piano could not, and soon he and Tarek are playing together in the park. They seem to form a quick yet tight bond over music that turns into a warm friendship. The Visitor could've turned into a very predictable, standard look at america's immigration policy towards muslims post 9/11, but Richard Jenkins (academy award nominated) performance as "every white man" keeps it from being one dimensional. You might get the impression his character is supposed to be the typical american, lifeless and without any cultural heritage, but Jenkins brings a pathos to the screen that goes beyond what you might find in the script. The film is all the more satisfying because of it.

- bottcorecords1, Sunday, March 20, 2011

4 stars

Now this is more like it! A slow, simple story that flows out organically and doesn't force anything. It starts out lightly but somehow manages to pull out a spectrum of emotions: laughter, heartbreak, peace, frustration. Richard Jenkins is truly a work of art. Instead of stealing the show for himself he reacts to the events and people that happen. The story isn't about him, and he doesn't make it about him, and I appreciate that. The change is subtle yet quick and pronounced and Jenkins never breaks character. He leaks grief and jadedness wherever he goes but you can sense when he is really happy and when his passive bubble is burst. This isn't a role with lengthy soliloquys and in fact the character is quite an awkward one but somehow this only makes it more humanistic, more compassionate.Music is a uniting force in this movie and whomever chose it has a wonderful ear. Good interspersing of African drum beats among the expansive piano runs. The director managed to make New York look very spare but it's never an image of complete coldness. In fact the cinematography is quite warm and this is all owing to Jenkins' quiet sympathy. It just goes to show that depression is not the answer and even though it doesn't end happily I'm left feeling...elevated somehow. Who was really the one most elevated, the immigrants or the professor? I guess the ending shows the professor, the "visitor" was the one that was. I guess the "visitor" is a metaphor for a happenstance upon a really rich culture. I don't know, honestly I'm really struck by Richard Jenkins. I hope he at least gets considered for an Oscar nod. I can't usually tell these things but this nuanced role was played beautifully and naturally.

- jennifxu, Saturday, July 30, 2011

4 stars

A lonely widower professor gets a new lease on lfie after a chance encounter with some illegal immigrants. Based on that set up alone, you could easily just cast this movie off as another case of minority characters acting as an angelic force whose purpose is to help a down and out white, as well as yet again a film where a white man comes to the aid of minorities in need. Why do that though? Especially when the way it's all handled (as is the case here) is done with care, intelligence, and an overhwelming sense of gentleness and sincerity (in good ways). The film does have typical elements to it, but it's well played, avoids being pandering (almost completely), and is aved by some terrific performances, especially that of Jenkins in a standout lead role. Yeah, the film is uneven and all over the place with what it is trying to do, but it's never boring, has a lot fo heart, and could have been done a whole lot worse. Give it a go.

- cosmo313, Saturday, May 5, 2012