Volume 77 / Number 51 - May 21 - 27, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since

Koch On Film

By Ed Koch

“The Visitor” (+)

As I left the theater I heard someone say to his companion, “That isn’t just a movie; it’s a work of art.” He is absolutely correct.

The film is about a momentous period in the lives of four people. The chief protagonist is the very depressed 62-year-old Walter (Richard Jenkins) who teaches an economics class at a Connecticut college. Walter’s wife recently died, his students mean nothing to him, and he has been unsuccessful in writing a book.

When Walter visits New York City for a business event, he returns to the seldom-used West Village apartment that he and his wife kept in the city. He discovers that illegal immigrants on the run, Zainab (Danai Gurira) from Senegal, and her Palestinian husband from Syria, Tarek (Haaz Sleiman), have been living in it for several months. Walter is at first enraged, but when he learns they have leased the apartment from an unauthorized person, he offers them the use of the residence. The three individuals captivate one another and a friendship begins to develop.

Tarek is soon arrested and interned by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. Walter seeks to assist him along with Tarek’s mother, Mouna (Hiam Abbass), who flew in from Michigan to help her beleaguered son. The relationship that develops between Mouna and Walter is a delight to watch.

“The Visitor” could have been a polemic against perceived injustices in our immigration system, but in the hands of the writer-director Tom McCarthy, it is not. It is, indeed, a work of art. Go see it before it leaves the city’s theaters.

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