Jenkins shines in ‘The Visitor’

Parker Otto

“The Visitor,” the latest film to be screened as a part of the Richard Jenkins Film Series at The Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St., delivers a beautiful atmosphere and Jenkins at his absolute best.

Walter, played by Jenkins, is a lonely college professor living in New York City. He befriends musicians Tarek and Zainab, played by Haaz Sleiman and Danai Gurria, a young illegal immigrant couple. After a misunderstanding, Tarek is discovered and arrested, and Walter tries to help him get released.

Jenkins’ gives an incredible, engaging performance. Before “The Visitor,” all the films in the Richard Jenkins Film Series had Jenkins as a supporting actor. In this film, he gets to shine as the leading man. The audience is shown at the beginning of the film how isolated Walter is. One of the best examples is when he’s eating lunch at his college. All the tables are full of people laughing and eating, but Walter is at a circular table alone.

Jenkins’ facial expressions are often more telling than his line deliveries. When Walter teaches classes or works on his writing, his face shows a lack of fulfillment. All of this is shown without Walter saying a single word. With this performance, Jenkins demonstrates how an actor can say a lot while speaking very little.

When Jenkins does speak, he fills the screen. At a detainment center, Walter finds out his friend has been deported in the most emotionless way possible. He goes off on the ICE guard on duty for his lack of humanity. When Jenkins cries out, “He had a life,” it made the blood of the viewers run cold.

The ending of the film truly stands out. After Tarek’s deportation, Walter is alone like at the beginning of the film. He has changed, however, and one day he goes to a subway platform and plays the drum. It may not be a happy ending, but Walter has grown as a person and found new purpose in life.

“The Visitor” is not just an ordinary story about a lonely man whose life is enriched by others. It’s a character study of a man who seeks to find who he is as a person and how he fits into the world he inhabits.