Sunday, April 14, 2013

Movie Review: "The Impostor" (2012/Documentary)

This movie* is an example of why I love documentaries! It is a British film that focuses on a blue collar American family and a French con man.

In the late 90's a thirteen year old boy disappeared from a playground near his home in San Antonio, Texas. Three years later his family received a call from Spanish authorities informing them that the child had turned up in Spain. In actuality, the person claiming to be Nicholas Barclay was a con man, an impostor.

On the one hand, as a movie, this documentary had all the ingredients of a first rate thriller. The cinematography, score and the way the film was edited all added to the mystery, revealing layers of information incrementally, each revelation often creating more questions than it answered.

The movie doesn't explore the question of what happened to Nicholas Barclay, whose whereabouts remains a mystery. The film zeros in on how and why his family accepted an impostor into their midst, despite numerous red flags that should have made them suspicious.

I found it interesting that a British film maker was able to treat a family of Texas rednecks (who may have actually had something to do with Nicholas' disappearance) with such respect. He doesn't gloss over their faults, but he also doesn't make them out to be either cartoonish or potentially evil. He reveals a family that has suffered a terrible tragedy and each of whom wants the impostor to be their child so badly, they let themselves believe the lie.

What made the movie so creepy, however, was Frederic Bourdin,  the con man who posed as Nicholas Barclay (and many others). The video makes it very clear how easy it might be to be taken in by this man. He has both wit and a sleazy kind of charm. Every now and again, he shows another side, however. It is a dark, almost evil, pride in his ability to outsmart others. He says he impersonated lost children because he was looking for a home where he could be loved. That may well have been true when he was in his teens. By the time he impersonated Nicholas Barclay, he was an adult. It seemed that by then, he was doing it for the thrill of and screwing with others' lives.

As entertainment, the film was awesome. It was as taught a nail-biter as a Hitchcock flick, but, by the end of the film I was left feeling disgusted by this person. As entertaining as the movie was, I rather wish that the filmmaker had not given such a horrible man a forum to brag about his exploits as a con man. 

Buy it here*.

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