The Visitor is wearing layers
I saw "The Visitor" last night in one of my favorite Seattle theaters. Well crafted and understated, the film climaxed at the very end with the screen going dark and when it did, n, obody moved. The space within the walls was enveloped in complete silence as we collective paused to allow the weight of what we'd just seen settle in. Only slowly, when the credit music began, did people rise from their seats and leave. If you'd like to see a film that will touch both your heart and your mind, "The Visitor" will take you there.
The simple plot appears like a prism; held up against the light of our own experiences, it invites us to consider themes of aging, grief, intergenerational relationships, hospitality, racism, pluralism, overwork, and some of the forces that create that good disease I call "good Samaritanism".
My only complaint is that, in the credits, we're invited to a web site that invites activism and response surrounding the issue of immigration detention centers. This would be fine if we were being invited to call for study and dialog surrounding issues of immigration and deportation. Instead the activism invites us to join in working to end all deportations of illegal aliens.
No doubt written with leanings toward the left, Visitor does a marvelous job of personalizing and humanizing Islam and those of middle-eastern origin. But if the right is guilty of painting with a policy brush that vilifies and suspects aliens (leading to all the ugliness of profiling and racism), the left is just as guilty of making positive generalizations: "all illegal aliens are hard-working and pose no threat to national security." Both generalizations are equally troubling, in that they seek to bypass the need for case by case considerations, instead naively believing that some magic policy (born out of either romantic or dark generalizations from the left or right) will make decisions for us. Of all the issues addressed by the movie, this was the one lacking nuance. It felt more like propaganda. Unfortunately it was also a central theme.
None of this, however, overshadows the compelling value of "The Visitor". I hope you'll see it. And I welcome your thoughts about both the movie, and the immigration debate that is so important in our country.