Before trying his hand at Oscar level "serious films", McCarthy was quite an accomplished filmmaker of understated drama; 'The Visitor' is an uncharacteristically quiet attack on institutional indifference. Both in the more obvious form but also in the apathetic subservience that can plague academics/individuals directing the lives of others. It succeeds, as we might, through showing pure humanity.
Just because this is good-feel doesn't automatically make it any good in my book. I find the directing, acting, editing, mostly anything about this film truly mediocre at best. The characters are the most unbelievable that I may have ever seen in any movie. Though one could wish the world to be like this and smile from the idea of it, the seriousness of the matters should not be taken this ridiculously lightly imo.
The academic has finally come around to the conclusion that his life needs a meaningful direction after spending years of doing basically nothing. Initially it reminded me of About Schmidt - a coming-of-age story starring an adult. Unfortunately it took a different turn somewhere, heading towards the politcal post-9/11 / "white-guilt-for-treating-all-muslims-as-criminals" area. Just too much Haggis '04 over it.
Ahhh. Now THIS is a movie. The Visitor, as with movies such as I've Loved You So Long, is a film that does not rely on special effects or enormous action scenes to tell a story. It works on literary AND visual levels. The acting is suberb and the film is a joy to watch. Too bad more folks can't handle the complexities of a story such as this.