Thomas McCarthy’s The Visitor is a character study drowning in liberal guilt, equal parts social-message movie and in-depth portrait of a figuratively dying man’s rebirth. Connecticut professor Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) is a despondent walking corpse whose life is shaken by his discovery that – for reasons left absurdly oblique – a Muslim couple, Syrian Tariq (Haaz Sleiman) and Senegalese Zainab (Danai Gurira), are residing in his seldom-used Manhattan apartment. McCarthy’s attentive direction takes great pains to convey Walter’s detachment by lingering on him staring out of windows or at street performers, the widower’s sad disposition slowly dissolving once he allows the strangers to stay in his place and, soon afterwards, he begins taking drum lessons from Tariq. When the young Syrian is arrested and thrown into a Queens detention center for illegal immigrants, The Visitor begins modestly sermonizing about the supposed unjustness of current domestic immigration policy, albeit from the perspective not of Tariq (whose future is actually at stake) but of Walter. Such a point of view openly reveals McCarthy’s chief subject matter to be liberal Caucasians’ shame and remorse over illegal immigration rather than America’s complex post-9/11 relations with its foreign-born population. And as a result, his visual political signifiers (such as a “Support Our Troops” banner hanging on a highway overpass) merely feel like topical window dressing for the facile – if, at least with regards to Jenkins, soulfully performed – story of a man learning, from one family’s deportation-facilitated disintegration, to stop being a worthless mope and live again.