The Visitor

2008 Drama

A lonesome widower and college economics professor finds his mundane existence suddenly shaken up when he befriends a pair of illegal immigrants, one of whom has recently been threatened with deportation by U.S. immigration authorities, in the sophomore feature from The Station Agent director Tom McCarthy. Years after losing his wife, 62-year-old Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) has also lost his passion for writing and teaching. In an effort to fill the empty void that his life has become, Walter makes a half-hearted attempt to learn to play classical piano. Later, when Walter's college sends him to a conference in Manhattan, he is surprised to discover that a young couple has moved into his seldom-used apartment in the city. Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and his Senegalese girlfriend Zainab (Danai Gurira) have fallen victims to an elaborate real-estate scam, and as a result they no longer have a place to call home. When Walter reluctantly allows the couple to remain in his apartment, talented musician Tarek insists on repaying his host's kindness by teaching him to play the African drum. Over the course of Walter's lessons, the ageing academic finds his spirits revitalized while gaining a newfound appreciation for New York jazz clubs and Central Park drum circles. Later, Tarek is arrested in the subway and threatened with deportation after police learn that he is an undocumented citizen. Suddenly, in his attempt to help his new friend, Walter's passion for life is unexpectedly awakened. When Tarek's radiant mother Mouna (Hiam Abbass) arrives in the city in search of her son, that passion turns to romance -- something that Walter had previously thought he would never experience again. more..

Director: Tom McCarthy

Starring: Richard Jenkins, Haaz Sleiman, Danai Gurira, Hiam Abbass, Marian Seldes


  • The Visitor, is, if anything, more imaginative and touching than his first.

    Ruthe Stein - The San Francisco Chronicle

    20 January 2013

  • The curious thing about The Visitor is that even as it goes more or less where you think it will, it still manages to surprise you along the way.

    A.O. Scott - The New York Times

    20 January 2013

  • A heartfelt human drama that sneaks up and floors you.

    Peter Travers - Rolling Stone

    20 January 2013

  • It is one of the year's most intriguing dramas, with a quartet of powerful performances.

    Claudia Puig - USA Today

    20 January 2013

  • This is a film of our times - paranoid, heartbroken, disillusioned - and the rare recent American movie whose characters react the way actual people might.

    Wesley Morris - The Boston Globe

    20 January 2013


  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

    Academy Awards (2009)

  • Best Ensemble Cast

    Boston Society of Film Critics Awards (2008)

  • Thomas McCarthy

    Brisbane International Film Festival (2008)

  • Best Actor

    Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards (2009)

  • Best Actor

    Chicago Film Critics Association Awards (2008)