Richard Jenkins, left, and Haaz Sleiman in The Visitor

AFI Dallas: Visiting With The Visitor

For those hoping to attend tonight's sold-out screening of The Visitor, writer-director Tom McCarthy's follow-up to The Station Agent, tonight at 7:15 p.m. at the Angelika Film Center, fear not: AFI Dallas International Film Festival CEO Michael Cain says some tickets have been held back for the screening (and all the others during the fest's run), though you'll have to arrive plenty early to avoid the crush of the Rush Line, which opens an hour before the screening's set to start.

The Visitor, which will open in Dallas on May 2, is among the fest's highlights -- the bittersweet tale of a college professor (Richard Jenkins) who, after years away from his Manhattan apartment, returns to find it occupied by an immigrant couple who offer the dead-inside prof the opportunity to reconnect with a world from which he's cut himself off. But it's more than just a film about redemption and, yes, romance, but also one that cannily deals with the subject of illegal immigration without pronouncing its intentions from a street-corner soapbox. Two films into an already estimable career as a filmmaker, McCarthy once more focuses on men and women who live in the margins, the otherwise forgettable folks you pass on the street without giving them further notice.

The Visitor's writer-director, Tom McCarthy

"I think of it as life between the cracks a little bit," McCarthy tells Unfair Park. "The term 'outsider' it feels too strong, because John Wayne was an outsider. James Dean was an outsider. They were extraordinary outsiders, and mine tend to be ordinary outsiders. There is a lot of profound drama in ordinary life."

Also, as it turns out, the men behind The Visitor are no strangers to Dallas.

Tom McCarthy, best known perhaps as fabulist Scott Templeton on The Wire during its final season, appeared in the 2000 film Certain Guys, shot entirely in Dallas by local filmmaker Stephen James. "It was one of my first independent film experiences," says McCarthy.

And star Richard Jenkins, who's appeared in some 80 films and TV series (chief among them Six Feet Under, spent several months here many years ago: During the Dallas Theater Center's 1983-'84 season he directed Billy Bishop Goes to War -- and this was way back when the DTC was being run by artistic director Adrian Hall, whom Jenkins has known since they were in the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island, years earlier. I will ask both men about their time in Dallas tonight, when I moderate the Q&A after the screening. Hope to see you there. Till then, here's the trailer for The Visitor. --Robert Wilonsky

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