'The Impostor' Is This Year's 'Catfish' [Sundance 2012]

Bart Layton's The Imposter might technically be a documentary, but it feels like a narrative feature. The film tells the story of a Texas family whose 13-year-old son goes missing, only to show up three and a half years later in Spain with a story about kidnap and torture. He is returned home to his family where he lived for a few months before it was revealed that he was an imposter — a frenchman named Frédéric Bourdin.

This is not a spoiler, as the film is told not from the family's point of view, but Barclay's. We learn how and why he ended up in San Antonio, Texas, but even then not everything is what it seems. The story is constructed using talking head interviews with the imposter, the family, an FBI agent, us embassy officials — practically everyone involved in the true story. Layton brilliantly constructs recreations (a la Man On Wire) of the story from start to finish, which is fantastically cinematic. We also get some actual home movie footage cut in as well.

Watch a clip from the film below:

The Imposter is an engrossing, on the edge of your seat thriller with unbelievable twists and turns. I've been calling the film this year's Catfish because of the identity manipulation and narrative feel, and not the controversy over authenticity. This is the true story as told by the people involved — although out narrator, the imposter, is a pathological liar, so you never know. The film ends and the discussion begins: Who is telling the truth? What actually happened? What do you believe?/Film Rating: 9 out of 10