Richard Jenkins received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Walter Vale in The Visitor.
Richard Jenkins is quite good at being just an average man in this film as Walter Vale. He plays a widowed economic professor. He seems to simply be drifting through life without much of a purpose, except the rather simple day to day tasks involving his job, and the piano lessons he takes basically because his wife memory. Jenkins simply, but effectively portrays his characters rather overt, yet at the same time subtle depression. He is not visibly crying constantly nor has he stopped his life completely, but Jenkins clearly suggests the profound effect the death of Walter's wife has had on him. It is not so much a sadness, but a lack of joy that Jenkins conveys wonderfully.
Walter soon meets a group of illegal immigrants that is the main focus of the film. Jenkins is again good in his confused apprehension at first as he encounters them in his apartment in New York City that he rarely uses. Walter comes around to them, and in fact befriends the illegal immigrant couple, particularly the man Tarek, who starts to teach him to play the drums. Jenkins' transition of Walter's relationship is not a huge jump by anyways, but it honestly portrayed by Jenkins, because he still shows that some awkwardness in his relation with the immigrants does stay, and that it is a very gradual transition of greater comfort with his very different from him, new friends.
Jenkins also does not become instantly happy at all, but shows that his life has simply found something new, and has again given more of some joy, that the utter devoid he had before. A passion also grows even more fully actually when Terek is imprisoned due to his illegal status. Walter once again finds a passion within himself to help Terek the best he can, and Jenkins suggests it as not something new to Walter, but rather this part of himself being risen once more. This is particularly shown well in his angry speech scene at the prison, where Jenkins is effective because he shows that he really does care for what is being done to Terek, and how his relationship with him has moved quite deeply.
With the imprisonment of Terek he also meets and befriends as well Terek's mother Mouna. Again Jenkins is good in creating and honest natural relationship with her, but this time he seems to make an even deeper connection with her, so much that he reveals and reflects more about himself. Jenkins comes full circle very well in showing how Walter had been sleepwalking through life, but finally has grown enough to find a purpose as well as see how he had been previously. I think I have probably sounded rather positive throughout this whole review, no doubt coming at least partially from the rather lackluster performances I have just gone through. I will say I am positive this is a good performance, and Jenkins shows his ability as a leading man as he did more commonly as a supporting actor.