When The Visitor was released in April 2008, I made a mental note to go see it. It was, after all, director “Tom McCarthy’s follow-up to his award winning directorial debut The Station Agent.” And I loved The Station Agent. As it turned out, I never did see it in theaters. But recently, I cajoled my friend The Hoffinator to put it in her Netflix queue and then let me see it before it got returned. (I have my own Netflix account, but I had The Dark Knight 12 days unwatched.) I watched it Thursday morning at 5 a.m.

Richard Jenkins, best known for being, if I was told correctly, the first to die in the HBO TV show Six Feet Under, plays Walter, a widower without much going on. A professor at a Connecticut college who’s allegedly writing a book, presenting papers for which his contribution is minimal and teaching his one class by rote.

As I thought back on the movie, there’s a Paul Simon lyric which seemed to encapsulate Walter’s persona:
I’ve just been fakin’ it,
I’m not really makin’ it.
This feeling of fakin’ it–
I still haven’t shaken it.

It is while he’s in New York City to present a paper that he visits his seldom-used apartment, only to find that is already occupied. This turns out to be transformative in Walter’s life. Frankly, I don’t want to tell too much more except that the djembe, an African drum, plays a role. In fact, after I watched the movie, I saw the trailer, and I felt that it gave away too much of the plot elements.

Later, I watched the deleted scenes and totally agree with their excisions. Another extra: info on the djembe.

I still haven’t seen Frozen River, The Reader, The Wrestler or Benjamin Button, among others. But of the 2008 films I DID see so far, The Visitor was my favorite.


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