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The Visitor (7/10)

by Tony Medley

The federal governmentís position on illegal immigration is nothing short of shameful. It has encouraged a wave of illegal immigration by refusing to enforce the laws and the borders, but tries to put the onus of enforcement on the citizenry by making it illegal to hire an illegal immigrant, thereby putting ordinary citizens at risk. So the result is this; the government says itís not important enough for it to enforce the law but threatens to put ordinary citizens in jail if they donít enforce the law the government refuses to enforce. I must add that individual citizens have no responsibility to enforce any law. Thatís the job of the government. The government canít abdicate this responsibility and force it on individual citizens.

The logical solution to the problem is to grant temporary worker status to those already here. This would allow the government to collect taxes from them and for them to get social services paid for through their taxes. But thatís not for the Republican party, who takes the simplistic position that everyone must be deported and employers put in jail. This issue could be the death knell for the GOP.

This film has two basic stories. The first is that College professor Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) is watching his life fall apart. Heís elderly, teaches only one class a term, is faking work on his ďbook,Ē hasnít recovered from his wifeís death, is trying to learn how to play the piano, unsuccessfully, and is terminally unhappy. He goes to his second home in Manhattan to find the second story waiting for him. Terek Khalil (Hiem Abass) and his wife, Zainab (Danai Jekesai Guiria) are living in his apartment. He kicks them out, then invites them back. Terek is an effervescent, fun-loving guy who sets out to teach Walter how to play the drums.

Enter the political tone of the movie. Terek and Zainab are illegal. Terek gets caught and sent to a detention center. Walter tries to help. Throughout the film Walter and Terek repeat the mantra that Terek is a ďgood manĒ who ďhasnít done anything.Ē Well, he is a good man, but his has stayed in the country illegally, so he hasnít "not done anything," a point the film refuses to make.

Jenkins gives an impressive performance capturing the ennui of an elderly man who feels as if his life has no meaning. The tone and pace of the film by writer-director Thomas McCarthy strike the right notes as far as that story line goes.

Even though Iím on the side of Terek and Walter, this film is too heavy-handedly one-sided in its obvious political POV to win me over. If there had been someone to state the position that these people were illegal and were breaking the law, I would have been much more enthusiastic about it. As it is, I found it an extremely well-written and well-acted film that kept my interest throughout, but it was far too biased. Along those lines, it reminded me of a Soviet or Chinese Communist propaganda film.