Disillusioned Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) is coasting through his life since the death of his wife. He is an accomplished economics professor at Connecticut College where he holds an easy, untested position. The plot of the film really begins when Vale is forced to attend and deliver an academic paper he “co-wrote” at a conference in New York City. On arrival at his vacant city apartment he finds a couple from Senegal and Syria staying there. After initially throwing them out of his apartment, Vale welcomes them in for the night as it is late and they have a lot of possessions, this gradually extends into a longer stay. The film begins to take shape and blossom as does Walter and Tarek’s relationship – unusually bonding over Tarek’s djembe drumming.
As the film carries on, you would be forgiven for thinking the main plot-line could be that Walter has finally found a new lease on life but you are struck a quick blow when Tarek is ‘arrested’ for allegedly not paying for a ticket on the subway by undercover police – although this is evidently a cover for targeting suspected illegal immigrants. Tarek happens to be living in USA unofficially. Much of the rest of the film focuses on Walter coping and working on getting Tarek released from a low-key, high security, detention centre in Queens, NYC.
I can’t really speak highly enough about the film, it’s as good an independent film as you can get. Genuinely uplifting despite being embedded in serious issues. Well written, it that the dialogue is very believable and throughout you don’t know what to expect next. A fantastic performance from Richard Jenkins in what is his most decorated role and a joy to see him get a chance in a leading role instead of his many supporting roles as a father, colleague or doctor. As well as another great film in the catalog of Tom McCarthy, if you very conveniently forget about The Cobbler.