Piers Handling selected Tom McCarthy as one of the best emerging film directors working today and chose the film The Visitor (2007) as an example that best represents his work.
Tom McCarthy’s second film in the role of director centres around the story of Walter Vale, a dispirited college professor mourning the death of his wife. When Walter meets Tarek, a Syrian musician, and his girlfriend Zainab, unknowingly subletting his New York City apartment illegally, his world starts to change. Tarek beings teaching Walter how to play the drums, lessons that lead to a kind of joy Walter hasn’t experienced for a long time. An unlikely friendship develops between the two men and strengthens further when Tarek is later detained by immigration officials.
“McCarthy never lets his political agenda overwhelm the film. No politicians are ever mentioned, no current event cited. His style is effortless and unadorned; he concentrates on the ordinary people in front of his camera – people who live very different realities all in the same city. New York in 2006 is a place that McCarthy believes cannot ignore the multitude of ethnicities and religions within its precincts. Much is to be learned by opening up to the world. As America watches its borders, clamps down on immigration, and increases domestic surveillance, The Visitor shows another way.”
Piers Handling, co-director of the Toronto International Film Festival