Much of the art of the writer-director and cast of 'The Visitor' resides in the fact that nobody gets in the way of the important story the film tells, which is essentially a parable. What might happen, it seems to ask, if average white middle-class Americans became truly sensitive to the horrific plight of many foreigners in this county? The strength of The Visitor' is that the strong feelings it awakens lead to some serious thoughts.
Our average guy is an intelligent professional who's tellingly cut off from the rest of the world, even what's immediately around him. Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) is a widowed professor like Dennis Quaid's character in the much inferior 'Smart People'--not an egocentric bore like the latter, however, but an essentially decent person. Walter is impeccably dressed, polite to everyone, but reserved and distant. Walter, as he admits later, is just "pretending." He's dried up; has ceased to be fully alive. He lives alone in Connecticut where he teaches, and is detached toward students and colleagues alike. Remarkably, since he still seems to have a reputation, he has not revised his course on global economics for fifteen years. He's published books and claims he's finishing another but isn't really working on anything. He dabbles with piano lessons, in honor of his late wife, a celebrated pianist, but that isn't going anywhere; he keeps firing teachers.