The Imposter review

Boy In Disguise

The Imposter (2012)

Director: Bart Layton

Cinematography: Erik Wilson, Lynda Hall

Length: 99mins

A documentary/film that mostly passed under the noses of the masses, The Imposter puts forth the true story about a missing Texan boy in the 90s who is found in the most confusing circumstances. This is a film that requires no research as the plot is mostly spoiled on most of the webpages that I had found after the viewing.

Somehow straddling between a cinematic style mixed with a typical documentary style, it is often very hard to comprehend that the documentary wasn’t a well written fictional story. It leaves plot twists to baffle you and the story involved is often surreal in nature. The characters on both sides of the coin are at times creepy, and afterwards I felt shaky upon its suspense filled conclusion.

I am deliberately keeping the plot details vague but I shall attempt to indulge you with a small portion of the narrative. A 13 year old boy called Nicholas Barclay becomes missing in 1993 after walking home by himself. His close knit family are hell-bent on finding their son but inevitably give up all hope and think they are looking for a dead body. Intriguingly three years later, a boy claiming to be the missing Nicholas Barclay is found nowhere near Texas, but in a small town in Spain claiming he was abducted and sold into sex slavery. Something was off about him, but his nose was still familiar and he had that trademark gap-toothed smile that his family missed.

What I found clever about the filming of the documentary is that it keeps its cards mostly to its chest, revealing little scraps of information to draw you in. What you may think of the family is subtely adjusted to seed doubt in your minds and the narrative seems unpredictable at times, failing to stay in a straight A to B structure. The story is thrilling and darkly intense, with a first person narrative from Barclay mixed in with telling insights into the Barclay family. The documentary can be viewed as a film rather than a informative chronology of the events that unfolded, making it very accesible to those that are bored of the objective BBC-esque style that plagues our tvs.

The framing of the documentary is mostly owed to the genius of Bart Layton and his crew; the film is often viewed as a tennis match of dialogue with Barclay giving his understanding of a situation while his family give theirs but delving deeper into the film, their words are played against each other leaving an unsolved viewing of events that forces you to take sides – do you dare trust the word of this unsolved kid or do you believe his family. The film is mostly carried by Barclay himself, his charisma – however dark or questionable his actions in the film may be –  keeps you transfixed to the screen. 

Winning many awards and critical acclaim it is hard not to see why it is so revered in this not- quite documentary, not-quite film genre that constantly keeps you on your toes. Even in the big reveal the story barrels on like a freight train and you cannot help but be enthrawled by this fresh take on what some would say is a fairly straightforward medium.


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