The movie begins with a lonely, depressed, widowed professor, played to perfection by Richard Jenkins, trying to fill his time. He has tried writing, music lessons, staring into space, but nothing has worked. Finally, he is assigned to attend a conference in New York City. Fortunately he keeps an apartment in the city, although he has not been there for many months, since the death of his wife.
When he arrives he is shocked to find that there is a young couple living in his apartment. They are not exactly squatters; after all, they are paying rent to a mysterious man. But they definitely do not belong. After considering kicking the intruders out, the professor decides to let them stay. The three quickly become friendly and emotionally attached to one another.
The fly in the ointment is that the couple in the apartment are foreigners. He is from Syria. She is from Senegal. The cultures all clash, but everyone learns, grows and benefits from the experience. We sense that the professor is beginning to recover from his grief. The reticent Senegalese girlfriend is slow to come around, but she soon learns to appreciate her new host and his ways as well.
I will not give away what happens next, except to say that the young couple are not only foreign, they are in the USA illegally. There are complications. Watch it to find out what happens. You won't be disappointed.
One question that is never answered, but constantly asked is, "Who is the visitor?" The professor cannot be the visitor, for it is his home, right? But we see that Tarek, his Syrian drummer friend, becomes a host, guide and friend for him. Zaineb, the girlfriend, seems the most uncomfortable, but she quickly becomes cook to the group. Her art and cooking provide stability and a gathering place for everyone else.
I believe that in this movie, like in life, everyone is a visitor. The question for us is, will we serve and welcome the visitors around us? Will we look for those who are lonely or grieving? Will we care for and take in the homeless? Will you and I provide a place for visitors?