Movie Review: The Imposter [2012]

The Imposter [2012]

The Imposter [2012]
Director: Bart Layton
Genre: Documentary/Biography
Starring: Adam O’Brian, Frédéric Bourdin and Carey Gibson
Runtime: 99 minutes

In 1994, a 13-year-old boy named Nicholas Barclay left his San Antonio home to go play basketball. He never returned, eventually assumed to be dead.

In 1997, his family received a phone call from someone in Linares, Spain stating that Nicholas was there, shaken up but alive. How did Nicholas get overseas?

We know the answer to this question right away — this isn’t Nicholas at all. This is a 23-year-old Frenchman named Frédéric Bourdin, an imposter posing as the long-lost teenager. In an effort to appear believable, Bourdin goes to great lengths to cover-up his appearance. He wears a hoodie, ball cap and shades as often as possible, and his timid demeanor goes in line with someone who underwent a traumatic experience. He dyes his hair blond and acquires crude renditions of the same three tattoos Nicholas had. Somehow, remarkably so, the Barclays take in Bourdin, fully believing (or at least wanting to believe) that this is actually their missing family member.

The Imposter [2012]

If that sounds too crazy to be true, well, it gets even more ridiculous. I won’t get into explicit details because it truly helps to go into this movie without knowing much, but the film takes a total 180 about halfway through. All of a sudden, all of my preconceived notions about the people we were introduced to were thrown out the window. My emotions were turned inside and out, and I was left wondering just who to believe.

In order to figure out just what the hell happened in this bizarre true story, we hear from a variety of talking heads. Bourdin himself tells his side of the story, very bluntly stating that he wanted “love and affection” in his life, even if that meant stealing another person’s identity. He is an enigmatic character, one who has a strange type of charisma even as we learn of his despicable deed. We also hear from many members of the Barclay family, as they stumble over their words to try to explain how they let this stranger into their home. Surely they must have noticed that Nicholas’ eyes suddenly changed from baby blue to brown?

The Imposter [2012]

Interspersed with interview clips are home video shots (including Bourdin’s U.S. arrival into open arms) as well as re-enacted moments using actors. The transition between all three formats is flawless, particularly when dialogue remains perfectly in sync while switching amongst them. This is an expertly crafted documentary from seasoned TV veteran, Bart Layton.

The Imposter asks a lot of questions, and it is almost certainly the most ‘thrilling’ documentary I have ever seen. It’s damn near impossible to write a story like this, and it’s mind-boggling that this could have ever happened. As a case of “stranger than fiction”, this is simply unforgettable. Folks, this is easily one of the best films of the year and it is an absolute must-see.


20 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Imposter [2012]

  1. Anders says:

    Sounds like a really good movie! I saw a similar documentary a year ago about a woman who were faking identities on Facebook. I will surely try to get my hands on this movie, I love these kind of stranger-than-fiction movies; as you say, these real stories would probably never gotten written down as a script, because no one would have thought of them 🙂

  2. Chris says:

    Thanks for the write-up, Eric. One of the best films of the year you say…I heard Alex at And So It Begins praise The Imposter too, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to see it soon.

    If it’s half as good as my favorite doc of the year Dreams of A Life (2011), I’ll be in for a treat 🙂

    • Eric says:

      You got it, man. This film came out of nowhere and blew me away. Definitely check it out when you get a chance!

      Dreams of a Life, eh? Gonna have to look that one up!

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