The Movie Waffler Tribeca 2022 Review - THE VISITOR | The Movie Waffler

Tribeca 2022 Review - THE VISITOR

the visitor review
An ex-convict's attempts to reconnect with his daughter are scuppered by his evangelist in-laws.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Martin Boulocq

Starring: César Troncoso, Mirella Pascual, Svet Ailyn Mena, Romel Vargas, Teresa Gutiérrez

the visitor poster

Like the recent Brazilian dramas Divine Love and Raquel 1:1, Bolivian filmmaker Martín Boulocq's The Visitor is another sideways glance at the growing influence of the evangelical church in South America. Where the aforementioned Brazilian films critiqued the church's misogyny, The Visitor exposes the hypocrisy of a church that preaches goodwill while refusing to extend its warmth to those attempting to make up for past sins.

the visitor review

After serving a three year prison sentence for an ambiguous crime seemingly spawned by his alcoholism, Humberto (Enrique Aráoz) returns to his hometown hoping to reestablish a relationship with his teenage daughter Aleida (Svet Mena). The girl now lives with her maternal grandparents, Carlos (César Troncoso) and Elizabeth (Mirella Pascual), the pastors of a local evangelical mega-church that seems to have most of the town in thrall to its charismatic leaders.

Realising he can't possibly win a custody battle, Humberto is forced to submit himself to the whims of Carlos and Elizabeth, who cruelly use him as an example to their congregation while exploiting his beautiful voice as he performs arias for a pittance at wakes. Humberto is equally exploitative however, enlisting teenage members of the congregation to sell phone cards around town under the pretence that the profits are going to the church.

the visitor review

Though its protagonist is a wannabe opera singer, there's little operatic about The Visitor. Boulocq films at a quiet remove, his camera a silent, unobtrusive observer that rarely gets into the faces of the film's characters. The silence of the penant Humberto is contrasted with the bombastic, flamboyant nature of Carlos, for whom everything is a show. The name Humberto is said to evoke an intelligent man of giant proportions, a bill this film's protagonist fits. He remains stooped over throughout, like a gentle giant worried his frame might take the roof of a house if he rises to his full height. He's a humble man, the exact opposite of the flash Carlos, and despite the latter's disapproval, it's Humberto who comes off as the protagonist of some moral fable from the good book.

When Boulocq does move his camera in for a close-up, it's to staggering effect. As he's humiliated and spiritually emasculated on stage by Carlos, we see a rage growing behind Humberto's eyes, steam almost coming from his bull-like nostrils. He's clearly a man whose temper has gotten the better of him in the past, which makes us wonder just how bad his past sins were.

the visitor review

The ambiguity of Boulocq's storytelling and the refusal to divulge the nature of his protagonist's past crime may prove frustrating for some viewers. But regardless of what Humberto has done, the point is that he isn't being treated in what is considered a Christian manner by those who preach such virtues. Does he deserve custody of his daughter? Perhaps not, as he certainly can't provide her with the material lifestyle her grandparents' wealth has bestowed upon her. But while Carlos exerts a religious influence over Aleida, we're left in little doubt that Humberto is her true spiritual mentor.

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