The Visitor (image 1)

A heartfelt human drama that sneaks up and floors you.

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Screened as part of NZIFF 2008

The Visitor 2007

Directed by Thomas McCarthy

A shy, disillusioned university professor retrieves his heart in this quiet, soulful drama from writer/director of The Station Agent. "A heartfelt human drama that sneaks up and floors you." — Rolling Stone

USA In English
106 minutes 35mm

Director, Screenplay


Oliver Bokelberg


Tom McArdle


Jan A.P. Kaczmarek


Richard Jenkins
Hiam Abbass
Haaz Sleiman
Danai Gurira


Toronto 2007; Sundance, Edinburgh 2008


In The Station Agent, writer/director Tom McCarthy threw together three mismatched souls and found incandescence in their quiet journeys towards redemption. In The Visitor, he does it again, painting his gentle, soulful colours against a canvas of global strife. Economics professor Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) is the shy, disillusioned male at the centre of McCarthy's ensemble piece, who returns to his New York apartment after a long absence to find it occupied by a couple of illegal immigrants. Convivial Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) is a talented drummer who encourages Walter out of his protective shell, while his prickly girlfriend Zainab (Danai Gurira) carries the burden of their perilous citizenship status. Each learns something new from the other, but just when you think you have this film pinned, it takes off in an unexpectedly dramatic and moving direction. The arrival of Tarek's mother Mouna (played by luminous Israeli-Arab actress Hiam Abbass) has something to do with this, but so too does the playing out of remote political realities on an intimate human scale. — BZ

"As a writer-director, McCarthy, like the characters and the places that he suffuses with emotion, has poetry in him - and he knows how to let it out. He has a talent for demarcating those spaces in which characters can become whoever they want to be... There isn't a cliched or unfelt moment in The Visitor. Poet Robert Burns may have written that the greatest gift is to see ourselves as others see us. But McCarthy knows the greatest thing is to see yourself truly and whole, and to offer whatever is worthy to your loved ones and your friends." — Michael Sragow, Baltimore Sun