The Visitor

Director: Tom McCarthy
Screenwriters: Tom McCarthy

Institute History

  • 2008 Sundance Film Festival


Director Tom McCarthy returns to the Festival (The Station Agent won three awards in 2003) with an outstanding sophomore effort, The Visitor, an illuminating and superbly crafted film about how disparate people form familial bonds which inspire an emotional rebirth in a lonely widower.

Walter Vale, an economics professor from suburban Connecticut, has withdrawn from life since his wife died. When he must attend a conference on globalization in Manhattan, he goes home to his seldom-used apartment in the city and frightens a young couple who have been living there illegally, Tarek, a Syrian man, and his lover, Zainab, from Senegal. Seeing that the couple have nowhere else to go, Walter softens and invites them to stay until they sort something out, and a friendship blossoms. One day Tarek has a chance encounter with the police and is immediately detained. Since Zainab cannot visit Tarek at the immigration detention center, she turns to Walter for help. When he decides to assume responsibility for his new friends, Walter begins a journey back toward personal and emotional revival.

McCarthy's simple and precise direction elicits wonderfully nuanced performances from a talented cast led by Richard Jenkins. The Visitor possesses a powerful, yet quiet, grace and establishes McCarthy as a masterful storyteller.

— Shari Frilot

Screening Details

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