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Film review: THE VISITOR: a slice of life without frills and with a lot of courage [Tribeca 2022]

Visitors’ opinions

The visitor (2021) film criticism from 21st Annual Tribeca Film Festivala film realized by Martin Boulocqwritten by Martin Boulocqand featuring Enrique Aroz, Cesar Troncoso, Svet Mena, Mirella Pascal, Therese Gutierrezand Romel Vargas.

Few stories could be more direct than that of The visitor (“The VisitantThis film looks at a slice of life directly, full of courage and enthusiasm, and calls out what it sees without fanfare.

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The title of the visitor refers to a widower, Humberto, who has just been released from prison, trying to reconnect with life in general, and in particular his teenage daughter, Aleida, under the care of his wealthy maternal grandparents after the imprisonment of his father. The backstory unfolds at a very satisfying pace among passages that show Humberto trying to make his way past lockdown, and most importantly, getting back into Aleida’s life.

In the meantime, Aleida has lived in an upscale gated community with Pastor Carlos and Mrs. Elisabeth. Carlos has an excellent reputation as a leading evangelical preacher, and he is very good at it too. But despite their prosperity, Carlos and his wife are still, in ideal Christian terms, the real article – generous, forgiving and supportive. They welcome Humberto into their lives, as well as that of his daughter, on the condition that Aleida remains in their care.

Humberto also humbly accepts Carlos’ gentle insistence that he join his congregation. More specifically, Humberto would like rejoin, as formerly he had quite a reputation for gospel singing. In fact, Humberto is a very good tenor, trained professionally thanks to the generosity of Carlos, his son-in-law, now reduced to singing funeral songs for a pittance.

But Humberto’s earnings since his release are only the means to an end, namely full custody of Aleida. He knows as well as anyone that the odds are stacked against him, and for good reason. But he is fearless. He plays it warily too, now in a larger prison of virtual poverty. With the help of a few resourceful buddies, Humberto continues the hustle and bustle that sustained him in prison: selling phone cards – possibly fake, though that’s unclear – even to recruit Carlos’ favorite disciples (who obviously feel the pinch themselves) in the pyramid.

The moral and ethical implications of these secret schemes, however, do not concern him; they all converge towards a single goal: the unrestricted reunion with his daughter.

And Humberto seems to be doing well when it comes to fatherhood. He is non-judgmental, caring, and affectionate towards Aleida. He respects her decisions (perhaps a little more than he should). As for Aleida herself, the natural parent/child bond is slowly erasing her initial distance, aided by Norma, her laid-back paternal grandmother, full of family lore about Aleida’s grandfather as a very influential union leader in the time – quite a contrast to the wholesome sanctity of his grandparents’ home.

The highly romanticized portrait of the family she barely knows fascinates Aleida. As the father/daughter bond grows stronger, his mother’s suicide is staged through his diary, Humberto’s precious memory, from which he reads aloud to her the rose of entries. These scenes in particular are so well directed and acted that the beautiful, drama-rich melancholy of the passages also reveals the intense feeling of grief that the family subsequently repressed.

This marks the beginning of a rift between Humberto and his in-laws. She demands to read the entire diary, which Humberto (perhaps recklessly) allows. With a basic adolescent aversion to obtuse authority, Aleida rebels. What begins as getting drunk on goth classmates escalates into a restraining order imposed on Humberto, a pushback for challenging his in-laws for custody.

But Aleida’s most poignant challenge comes at the end of the film. Humberto watches his daughter’s christening from his prescribed distance in the hills outside the city. Aleida sees this and fights Carlos’ ritual soaking tooth and nail. At that moment, was Aleida thinking of her other grandfather – the story of Norma, the courageous leader of the miners fighting against establishment repression?

Director Boulocq’s clever final vision is among the best endings I’ve ever seen in cinema: Humberto pushing his motorcycle down the slope toward three huge wind turbines side by side, like Titans on a South American Golgotha. A must.

Evaluation: 9/ten

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