The Visitor

Rated 4.0

A resignedly balding widower and professor of economics (Richard Jenkins) has his empty, uptight-whitey life changed by a chance encounter with an unswervingly generous, intuitively creative person of color (Haaz Sleiman), whose mother (Hiam Abbass) turns out to be a love interest for the professor. Don’t gag; it’s actually really well-done—and almost funny how often and how closely The Visitor teeters toward cliché, only to deliver one gently genuine moment after another. Writer-director Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent) gracefully makes the point that compassion is inherently cinematic—not just because it’s gratifying to watch, but also because it’s hard. Plus, The Visitor gets something really right about New York City. It’s not just the pulse of the place, that improbable syncopation of twitch and stillness; it’s the dance going on between all its dislocated souls—and the even more improbable ways in which they sometimes come together, then get plucked apart.