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Life Arts

The Visitor and the Value of Human Connection

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Toward the end, Mouna Khalil, the mother of Tarek Khalil who endures the agony which forms the center of this film, confides, “After a while you forget. You just think that you really belong.” The film, The Visitor, centers around the struggle people go through to belong, to have a home, and is beautifully contrast with the dreary life of Professor Walter Vale.


Walter Vale, played subtly and sincerely to the nth degree by Richard Jenkins, is a professor whose life appears to be devoid of meaning.


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In the opening scenes, Walter is trying to hold on to a memory of a wife who was an artful piano player. A piano teacher who has seen him a few times seeks to help him learn to play the piano; however, Walter cannot take the fact that he may not have a knack for the piano. And, for that reason, he fires his piano teacher. (She is not the first piano teacher to be fired.)


Walter goes to New York City for a conference where he is to present a paper that he “co-authored.” It becomes clear that Walter has two homes, one in Connecticut and one in New York City. This detail is unimportant until Walter enters his home in NYC, which he has not been in for months, and finds a couple living in his home.

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The couple (Tarek Khalil from Syria and Zainab from Senegal) do not wish to impose but the landlord rented out the apartment to them while Walter was gone. Walter does not know what to do yet he never gets angry, and upon seeing that they do not know where they will go, Walter asks them to stay a few nights in his apartment.


The delicately interwoven story truly begins at this point. Traditions, cultures, and pasts collide creating awkwardness and lulls which are painfully uncomfortable.


Tarek, (who plays the djembe {an African drum}), invites Walter to one of his shows. Walter, a lover of classical music, is noticeably intrigued while Zainab is clearly worried by the presence of Walter.

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Tarek and Walter connect through the djembe. 


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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for OpEdNews.com

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