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
You know a movie is good when you don't want it to end.
I saw this film at Sundance (along with about twenty others). It was the only film I screened that ended with a standing ovation. The accolade was well-deserved. Richard Jenkins completely inhabits the professor, Walter Vale, unmoored by the death of his wife. Drifting, without purpose, grinding through his days, he thinks his life is over -- he is just taking up space. But when that space is invaded by a vibrant couple, Walter has an epiphany.
Richard Jenkins is not the only actor of note in this cast. Everyone is pitch-perfect. But particularly be on the lookout for Hiam Abbass. Every time she is on the screen is a delight. This is one of those rare films that you really do not want to end.
It would be easy to pigeon-hole this film as a topical drama dealing with an uncaring government system. But this film transcends all that. Instead it is a heartfelt film about what happens when people -- with all their desires and difficulties -- bump into one another to express the best part of their humanity. If this is the kind of movie you would like to see made more frequently in Hollywood, vote with your wallet this weekend, then go again and take some friends.
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