The Imposter is an exceptionally important documentary, possibly the most important documentary you’ll see. It effortlessly blends the factual accounts of everyone involved in this case with a recreation of certain events. Both sections come together to create one of the best films of the year.
This is the story of a man claiming to be an American boy who vanished three years earlier from his home in San Antonio. The man, now 23, assumed the identity of the missing boy and moved in with the family that believed him to be dead. Keep in mind that the real missing boy, Nicholas Barclay, was 13 at the time of his disappearance, making him 16 when he claimed to have been discovered. The new Nicholas is actually a 23-year-old with a dark beard shadow, different coloured eyes and a strong French accent.
The question that immediately pops to mind is “How do the family not know?” but The Imposter does a great job of charting the emotional rollercoaster that the Barclay family go on: they lose a child and a brother, only to have him re-appear a few years later.
The family aren’t given centre stage for the interview sections of the film, that goes the imposter himself. He’s instantly charming, suave and completely open about his actions. It’s up to the audience to decide how much of what he says is the truth. He seems to be totally open about what he did and how he did it. Even when he tells the story, he makes you feel sorry for him and forces you to see why he did what he did. Again, how much of his logic and twisted story is true is for the audience to decide.
By including reconstructions of specific events, the documentary pieces together a timeline that helps to put the events into order. We find out important things at the same time the family did, giving it the tension of a thriller. The most effective use of the narrative sections comes when the imposter’s voice is superimposed over the actor moving his mouth. It’s an unsettling thing to watch but makes it impossible for you to not to.
Don’t run the names through Google before you go see The Imposter. But definitely go see it. This one will stay with you.
Watch the trailer: