In Connecticut, lonely widowed Professor Walter Vale has a boring life. He teaches only one class at the local college and is trying to learn how to play the piano, despite not having the necessary musical talent. Walter is assigned to attend a conference about Global Policy and Development at New York University, where he is to give a lecture about a paper on which he is co-author. When he arrives at his apartment in New York, he finds Tarek Khalil, a Syrian musician, and Zainab, a Senegalese street vendor, living there. He sympathizes with the situation of the illegal immigrants and invites the couple to stay with him. Tarek invites him to go to his gig at Jules Live Jazz. Walter is fascinated with his African drum and Tarek offers to teach Walter to play the drum. However, after an incident in the subway, Tarek is arrested by the police and sent to a detention center for illegal immigrants. Walter has just hired a lawyer to defend Tarek when, out of the blue, Tarek's mother Mouna ... Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The parking lot in which Walter parks his car after arriving in New York - on East 11th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue - was torn down shortly after the film was released. See more »
During the night shot of Manhattan from New York Harbor, the wake of the camera boat is visible in the lower left hand corner. See more »
Oh shit! We have to get home! Zainab's gonna kill me, I'm on Arab time again.
Prof. Walter Vale:
What is "Arab time"?
It means I'm late by an hour. All Arabs are late by an hour, it's genetic, we can't help it.
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Thomas McCarthy's 2nd film after the wonderful "Station Agent" is equally good, if not better. I can't recommend Richard Jenkins' performance any higher here. He plays a widowed professor who is drifting through life rather aimlessly until he visits his New York apartment and finds there are two people squatting there. I won't give away anything else, except to say that it'll be a shame if this film flies under the radar. Jenkins is a character actor that everyone recognizes, but that few of us know. Here he occupies the first third of the film practically alone, and reminds us in moments of the Jack Nicholson character from "About Schmidt" with his dry humor that is on display for his crabby piano teacher.
Don't you just love watching an actor up there alone who keeps you spellbound in a subtle way? That's how this movie starts, and gradually we come to meet the couple in Jenkins' apartment, and the mother of one of them. The movie flows economically and with much care, but by the end it creeps up on us and makes us feel glad along the way as well as making us pause and reflect on the state of our world.
Lovely, lovely movie.
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