FIND MOVIES
Movie List
Loading ...
or
Find Theaters and Movie Times
or
Search Movies

Visitation rights

Hidden in plain sight
By BRETT MICHEL  |  April 16, 2008

080418_visitor_main
GONE, BABY, GONE: Tom McCarthy based his new film, The Visitor, in part on interviews he did in real-life detention centers.

“In terms of the general public, most people I know have never seen the inside of a detention center. Most people I know don’t even know they exist. Or that they’re within a mile of their home, depending on where you live.”

Boston College alumnus and New York–based actor Tom McCarthy (most recently seen as a Jayson Blair–esque journalist on HBO’s The Wire) not only knows such centers exist, but two-and-a-half years ago, while researching his screenplay for The Visitor (his impressive sophomore film as a writer/director, opening Friday), he discovered one “20 minutes from my front door.”

McCarthy didn’t rely on Blair-like inventions to detail the harsh realities that undocumented citizens face while held in these phantom facilities, some for as many as five years. “They’re stuck in this limbo,” he says, “depending on what country can take them back, and when.”

Through an organization known as the Sojourners, McCarthy was able to visit these detainees, many of whom were glad to talk with him “because they’re just so totally disconnected from the world.”

“They don’t have access to family, or to lawyers,” McCarthy tells me over coffee and bagels at the Ritz. He’s joined by his film’s lead actor, Rhode Island resident Richard Jenkins (while you might not know his name, you’ll surely recognize his face from Six Feet Under and other roles), who should see a career boost from his role as 62-year-old Walter Vale. In the film, Vale, a Connecticut widower closed off from the world, stumbles across a pair of illegal immigrants –– Syrian Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and his Senegalese girlfriend (Danai Gurira) –– who have taken up residence in the Manhattan apartment that he’s hardly used in recent years.

Thus begins an unlikely friendship between strange bedfellows, a hallmark of McCarthy’s acclaimed first feature, 2003’s The Station Agent. The bond is short-lived, however: after being stopped by police in the subway, Tarek is arrested and taken to a detention center in Queens.

When McCarthy paid his first visit to the real-life detention center, immigration wasn’t yet the hot-button topic it’s become in the run-up to November’s presidential election. “People were talking about it,” he says, “but not like they are now.”

“I’m not really vilifying anyone,” says McCarthy. “All the movie sort of asks is, let’s have a little bit of empathy, and let’s occasionally do something that our country hasn’t done for a long time, which is try to put ourselves in other people’s shoes, and see the world multi-dimensionally, as opposed to ‘us and them’ and ‘good and bad.’ ”

The Visitor opens Friday, April 18, at the Kendall Square and the Waltham Embassy Cinemas. See the Arts & Entertainment section for details.

  Topics: Features , Celebrity News, Entertainment, Movies,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY BRETT MICHEL
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   WOMEN WITH SWORDS: KING HU AND THE ART OF WUXIA  |  March 12, 2013
    Decades before women took center stage in the one-two punch of Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill , King Hu (1932-1997; the subject of a retrospective at the HFA) put swords in the hands of a soaring heroine in Come Drink with Me.
  •   REVIEW: EMPEROR  |  March 12, 2013
    Yes, Tommy Lee Jones plays the "supreme commander" of the US forces in this historical drama from Peter Webber ( Girl with a Pearl Earring ) that takes place after the Japanese surrender in World War II, and the Oscar winner puts in another towering performance.
  •   REVIEW: 21 AND OVER  |  March 05, 2013
    As one of the Asian stereotypes in this hit-or-(mostly)-miss comedy from writer/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore says, "Fuck kids these days. Every one of you is drunk, stupid, and fat."
  •   REVIEW: THE LAST EXORCISM PART II  |  March 06, 2013
    Now that the shaky-cam nonsense has been left behind, what remains are textureless, overlit, sub-TV-quality visuals that only accentuate the fact that our protagonist, Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell), is at least a decade older than the 17-year-old exorcised sect-escapee that she's playing.
  •   REVIEW: JACK THE GIANT SLAYER  |  March 06, 2013
    Stop me if you've heard this one before: a farm boy dreams of adventure, finds it, and falls in love with a princess along the way. (For everyone's sake, let's just hope she's not his sister.)

 See all articles by: BRETT MICHEL