‘The Visitor’ succeeds without taking sides | TheUnion.com

‘The Visitor’ succeeds without taking sides

Illegal aliens. There’s a controversial topic. It’s fair to say it’s a complicated topic.

Two of the three main characters in “The Visitor” are in the United States illegally, but this estimable film chooses not to discourse on the issue. It certainly does not harp on any particular side. The film succeeds because of how it concentrates on the characters.

Yes, there is inevitable trouble in store for a musician from the Middle East, making his living below the radar in the melting pot of New York City. Yes, his girlfriend endures anxiety and fear. She’s an artisan from Africa, making her way as a street vendor, selling jewelry.

They are a loving couple. They are nice people. They wear an underclass form of the American dream well … as well as their status and fate will allow.

We come to know these two people because a white-bread, deflated professor merges into their lives. Through a far-fetched yet mundane contrivance, a genuine tale of connectedness unfolds. It deepens effectively when the musician’s mother enters the picture.

Yes, the bland and boring man lacks the beautiful-people qualities of the undocumented immigrants. Yes, he finds vitality and the soul he may never have tapped before. Richard Jenkins deftly adds facets to the milquetoast of a man he plays.

You’ll probably recognize Jenkins, a frequent face in television and movies, but the “The Visitor” has no-name stars. Fortunately, critical acclaim and good word-of-mouth have boosted this film to a decent level of independent-movie box office.

Writer/Director Thomas McCarthy (“The Station Agent”) finds a way to ground his film with formula elements without ever allowing the storytelling to feel ordinary. The casting and acting assure the script. The camera likes the international faces it gets to study.

Seeing “The Visitor,” you’ll gain a heartfelt sensibility about a topic that nettles America, but this is a good example of an issue movie that’s not an issue movie.

“The Visitor” plays at the Nevada Theatre Sept. 6 and 7 at 7:30 p.m.. Chuck Jaffee of Nevada City likes to plug people into the spirit of independent filmmakers. Find his other articles for The Union at http://www.startlets.com.

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