A lot of gay-themed films are low budget efforts, so you have to make allowances for the fact they don’t have polished production values and the actors aren’t going to be hired by the Royal Shakespeare Company anytime soon. However sometimes it’s tough, and that’s certainly the case with The Visitor. The film is almost like something you’d make to show potential investors what the movie would be like if they were given the money to do it properly.
I really tried to look past the film’s low budget shortcomings, but things such as the fact everyone sounds like they’re speaking from the end of a long tunnel (and sometimes background noise threatens to drown out the speech), make it difficult. It also doesn’t help that first-time feature director Tor Iben makes quite a lot of amateurish moves.
All that could be forgiven if the movie itself was strong, but it’s a little basic and to be honest feels like the sort of LGBT movie we had loads of about 10 years ago and which we’ve largely moved beyond.
Cibrâil (Sinan Hancili) is a Turkish-German policeman in Berlin, who lives with his girlfriend Christine (Martina Hesse). Things are shaken up by the arrival of her party-loving cousin, Stefan (Peter Beck). Cibrâil is surprised by the feelings that well up inside him, and soon can’t deny his attraction to Stefan, which could destroy his relationship with Christine.
It’s a fairly simple tale and very little happens that will even mildly surprise you. Even so, it could have worked with strong characterisation and a real exploration of the emotions of the subject, but they’re largely absent. The three main characters are sketched in and it feels as if we’re only getting a précis of what everyone is feeling. It’s difficult to understand the exact journey Cibrâil is on, and when his girlfriend inevitably discovers what he’s been up to with Stefan, everything happens so quickly it’s almost as if the movie is brushing over the repercussions in case we end up hating the central character.
Oddly there’s also a subplot about Cibrâil investigating a series of beatings and a murder (alongside his police partner, who could win awards for being taciturn), but that doesn’t really go anywhere.
The result of all this is that it’s difficult not to feel The Visitor is more a sketch than a movie – so low budget that it’s distracting and with a script that’s rather old-fashioned in its handling of gay themes and which rarely digs deeper than the surface. It does however fit the gay-themed movie rule that there must be a randomly shown penis in the first 10 minutes, so at least it has that going for it (seriously, I think there must be a secret rulebook somewhere, as it happens in far more LGBT flicks than it would if it were just coincidence).
Overall Verdict: Sadly The Visitor can’t overcome the shortcomings of its painfully low budget, as its story is simplistic and feels like the sort of underexplored tale of gay awakening that was common 10 years ago, but which has largely been replaced by movies that go a little deeper into the gay experience.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac