Tribeca 2022: The Visitor is a melancholic tale of redemption

The Visitor

An estranged ex-convict father looks to reconnect with his teenage daughter in the world premiere of Martín Boulocq’s sensitive drama.

This review is part of our coverage of the 2022 Tribeca Festival.

The Visitor starts with Humberto (Enrique Aráoz) as he returns home after a stint in prison, now three years sober, looking to rebuild his life. His primary source of income is singing at funerals, his operatic voice booming out “Ava Maria” over corpses. It’s a paltry paycheck, but it’s a legitimate job, as his offers are few and far between with the stigma of his past. He desperately wants to reconnect with his daughter Aleida (Svet Ailyn Mena). His main obstacle is her current guardians (and his former in-laws) Carlos (César Troncoso) and Elizabeth (Mirella Pascual). They’re powerful Evangelical church leaders, and they have a strong hold on their granddaughter. It’s not just a battle for custody of Aleida but for her soul itself, with the conflict as a whole wrapped up in themes of colonization in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Director Martín Boulocq’s film is a sweeping drama weaved with socio-political themes as one man fights for his daughter amidst a changing nation.

One of The Visitor’s many standouts is Aráoz’s work as Humberto, which balances a hard ex-convict and a doting father. At first glance, he’s a tough guy, weathered from his prison and alcoholic past, riding along alone on his motorcycle. Looking deeper reveals that he’s a sweet father—he’s riding with a giant pink teddy bear perched on his lap, a gift as he attempts to reconnect with Aleida. Aráoz builds Humberto’s quiet desperation ad he justifies joining Carlos and Elizabeth’s church to prove he’s a changed man. He sits in the back of the congregation, glancing over the crowd as they’ve fallen under the church’s. Aráoz plays stoic, a man seeing a way to win over his in-laws and win back the custody of his daughter.

One of The Visitor’s many standouts is Aráoz’s work as Humberto, which balances a hard ex-convict and a doting father.

The Visitor also comments on the colonization of Bolivia. Carlos, preaching to the congregation, mentions that he was a foreigner when he started his church in Cochabamba. He and Elizabeth were missionaries from afar, and they appear to have made a lucrative church preaching to the local indigenous population. Yet they’re hardly preachers of the people, living in a gated community with a pool as Humberto and his mother Norma (who is also Carlos and Elizabeth’s housekeeper) live in a very modest home. He’s trying to make an honest living, but soon discovers the odds are stacked against him, and he finds himself caught up in a dodgy scheme to sell phone cards, recruiting other congregants to join as a way to help spread the word of God. 

Humberto also knows the toxicity of Carlos and Elizabeth’s hypocrisy and judgment. Their adopted daughter, Aleida’s mother, never felt at home with them and Humberto sees his daughter slipping away the same way his wife did. When Aleida announces that she’s getting baptized in the church, Humberto questions if it’s her choice or Carlos and Elizabeth’s demand. In a later scene, Aleida goes out partying with her friends. When her father and her guardians find her, Humberto embraces his daughter with a hug. Elizabeth slaps her. 

The Visitor, co-written by Boulocq and author Rodrigo Hasbún, recently won Best Screenplay in the International Narrative Competition at Tribeca and rightfully so. It excels as both an intimate relationship drama and socio-political commentary. Director Boulocq knows how to balance both on Humberto’s shoulders. He frames his characters in vast landscapes, suggesting they’re all but smaller parts of a larger whole. One particularly striking example of this? Humberto standing alone on a rural field, watching Aleida’s baptism unfolding from a distance. As Aleida fights the baptism, Boulocq brings the camera closer to both father and daughter, connecting them despite the physical distance between them. 

The Visitor is an exceptional film, anchored on stellar work from Enrique Aráoz. Here’s hoping the love from Tribeca sets it on a path to wider audiences. 

The Visitor Trailer:

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Ashley Lara

Ashley is a writer, producer, and avid karaoke fan living in New York City. She co-produces/co-hosts She Makes Me Laugh, a monthly female and non-binary comedy show. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @smashley_lara.

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