An intimate story of two illegal immigrants in the United States unravels in the new drama "The Visitor." Subtle and reflective, the film is an effort by director Thomas McCarthy to show the human face of immigrants who illegally enter the United States every day. VOA's Penelope Poulou has the story.

In Thomas McCarthy's "The Visitor," Walter Vale is an introverted and worn-out economics professor who lives alone in Connecticut after his wife's death. He is no longer motivated by his work and half-heartedly goes to New York to deliver an essay at a conference.

When he enters his old apartment, he finds it inhabited by an illegal immigrant couple -- a Syrian musician named Tarek and his Senegalese girlfriend, Zainab. They have fallen victim to a scam and have been renting the apartment from someone who posed as its owner.

Walter lets them stay. Gradually, imperceptibly, he befriends Tarek -- takes drum lessons from him.

As Walter gets pulled into Tarek and Zainab's lives he regains his long lost optimism and spirit. So, he is rattled when Tarek is arrested and faces deportation.

Walter is as helpless as Tarek. Actor Richard Jenkins offers a graceful and unassuming interpretation of a restrained but generous man. He says, through this movie, he got to understand the plight of illegal immigrants .

"It was new to me. Like Walter, it was new to me. Everything changes when you know someone," says the actor.

Lebanese actor Haaz Sleiman plays Tarek. For the role, he researched real deportation cases and he says people who are sent back suffer deep personal loss.

"Anyone would be devastated," says Haaz Sleiman. "Even if they are send back to the hometown when they are born. You've lost everything that you've worked for, built and working for," says the young actor.

American-Zimbabwan actress Danai Gurira plays Zainab. She says displacement and detention can cause psychological problems to a lot of illegal immigrants.

"The post-traumatic stress -- I learned a lot about that," says Danai Gurira. "There is stress that comes from having been in one of those environments that can cause you to close down or become very guarded and cautious, which is something I realized Tom was tapping into when he was writing Zainab."

Thomas McCarthy's "The Visitor" is not just an immigration story. It is a story of love, of how people connect with one another on a universal level. Director and cast deliver it in a heartfelt and pragmatic way that strikes a common theme among countless illegal immigrants in the United States.