The Visitor

The Visitor

DVD Rating: ***

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Read Emma Slawinski's film review of The Visitor

The Visitor is the first DVD to be released by Unanimous Pictures (formerly known as Halcyon), and no doubt the rebranded label was eager to impress with its debut – which goes some way to explaining why the extras here are more abundant than is usual for a low-budget indie release such as The Visitor. Unfortunately, however, few of the extras match up to the excellence, and more importantly to the economy, of the film itself.

The commentary, for example, is conducted by writer/director Tom McCarthy and star Richard Jenkins (Walter) – but the latter, for all his charm, has so little to contribute that they both themselves allude near the end to the pointlessness of his presence. McCarthy, too, is often reduced to restating what we can see for ourselves on the screen, and at one point asks: "Who actually listens to these DVD commentaries anyway?" More edifying is his discussion of the film's painstakingly accurate reconstruction of an actual detention centre, or his surprise at the sheer number of American flags that fly in New York. Apparently all the flags seen in the film were found in situ, not placed there by a set dresser as a way of "making a political statement".

Copy picture

There are four quality deleted scenes, all with optional commentary from McCarthy and Jenkins, and all removed to make the film punchier in its pacing rather than because there was anything inherently wrong with them. Also good is Drum Piece, in which Mohammed Naseehu Ali talks about coaching first McCarthy, and then Haaz Sleiman (Tarek) and (to a degree) Jenkins, in the Djembe, West Africa's most popular instrument. Sleiman had to look convincing playing along with Ali's band ("some of the best musicians in New York"). while Jenkins had merely to look like an enthusiastic beginner – but in fact Jenkins had drummed for five years in his youth, and proved to be a natural.

Less impressive are the two behind-the-scenes featurettes. The first (A Visit From Director And Cast), is a series of extended interviews with McCarthy, Jenkins, Sleiman, Hiam Abbass (Mouna) and Danai Gurira (Zainab), and offers insights into McCarthy's humanism and egalitarian pre-production process (of which Jenkins says, "I have waited my entire professional career to be part of something like this"). Still, at 55 minutes, it is too long, with the actors often merely describing their characters. On the other hand, the featurette actually entitled Behind The Scenes (five minutes) is too short, repeats material from the other one, and has all the empty gloss of an electronic press kit.

It is strange to complain of too many extras – but perhaps the principle that 'less is more', so well applied to The Visitor, would not have been out of place on this DVD as well.

Reviewed on: 26 Feb 2009
Share this with others on...
The Visitor packshot
An ageing, lonely man rediscovers his love of life when he visits New York and shares his home with two strangers.
Amazon link

Product Code: UNA001DVD

Region: 2

Ratio: 1.85:1

Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1

Extras: Audio commentary, A Visit From Director And Cast, Drum Piece, Behind The Scenes, deleted scenes, theatrical trailer

Search database: