A professor finds an illegal immigrant couple living in his New York apartment and befriends them over time. Walter Vale is unfulfilled. He teaches economics in Connecticut, and after the recent death of his wife, hasn't done much to pull his life together; the book he was writing rarely gets any attention from him anymore. He's asked to present a paper at a conference in New York, and Walter doesn't want to go, but those above him in the department insist. When Walter gets to his old apartment, he finds a young couple living there, much to his surprise. Apparently, a criminal realized no one seemed to be there and decided to start renting it out to others. Walter meets the couple, Tarek, a Middle Eastern drum player, and his girlfriend, Zainab, an African jewelry designer. They start to leave when they see Walter's shock, but perhaps more shocking still, Walter invites them to stay. Tarek begins encouraging Walter to play his drum-- a djembe-- and they start playing in Central Park together. Walter is timid at first but soon develops confidence. One day, after Tarek is mistakenly arrested and taken to a detention center, Walter decides to hire a lawyer to fight on Tarek's behalf. Zainab leaves, not wanting to stay alone with a man she hardly knows, but Walter soon finds himself in the company of Tarek's mother, Mouna. She lives out of town and came to New York as soon as she found out about Tarek's arrest; however, since she too is illegal, she cannot see him. They become friends, perhaps with the hopes of more, but when Tarek is suddenly deported without any advance notice, there may be nothing Walter and Mouna can do.
Best part of story, including ending:
This is a beautiful film, a delicate and loving character study, that refuses to take any easy paths toward simple answers or redemption.
Best scene in story:
When Walter first begins to grow confident playing the djembe in public, his look of sheer joy is heartwarming to behold.
Opinion about the main character:
Walter is a quiet man without much going for him, but you can tell he means very well and his heart is full of love. Richard Jenkins does some lovely work here as Walter.