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The Imposter

The Imposter

Released 24 August 2012
Director Bart Layton

Frederic Bourdin, Adam O'Brian, Carey Gibson, Anna Ruben, Beverly Dollarhide
Producer(s) Dimitri Doganis
Origin United Kingdom
Running Time 95 minutes
Genre Documentary, biography
Rating TBC

Secrets and lies.

We begin on a rainy night in Spain. A tourist couple happen upon a teenage boy slumped in a telephone box. Seemingly lost and terrified and without I.D., the boy is a mystery. Police arrive and after a few days, place the boy into a care home for children. Days later in Texas, a family receives a remarkable phone call. The mysterious boy was claiming to be Nicholas Barclay, the youngest son of this family who had gone missing three years previously when he was just thirteen. Suddenly, the film stops and rewinds, beginning again with the testament of the boy himself. Except he isn’t a sixteen year old boy but a man in his early twenties. How this dark eyed man with heavy stubble growth masqueraded as a blonde haired, blue eyed Texan teenager is the subject of this engrossing, suspenseful documentary from director Bart Layton.

The story itself is a gift, one that would push the levels of credibility were it not true. More than that though, The Imposter as a film is a tremendous achievement for Layton. The story is told with a cinematic flair that is only rarely seen in the field of documentary, drawing upon the language of American cinema from the neo-noir of the Coen brothers to the sun bleached, surreal Southern gothic of John Waters. In short, The Imposter looks great and the visual style complements and enhances the story. Layton uses cinematic tricks - the rewinding of film, actors lip-syncing the words of real testimony - to emphasise the fact that we can’t trust anyone here to present us the truth of what happened, not even the director himself.

This moral complexity makes the story riveting from start to finish, as throughout the film our sympathies and theories shift depending on who is giving their version of events. The interviews with everyone involved throw up so many questions (most of which are unanswerable) about why people do the things they do. To this end, The Imposter is a crucial piece of documentary making but is also wonderfully entertaining as a piece of cinema.

- Linda O’Brien