Film review: The Imposter

by Listener Archive / 03 January, 2013
Welcome to one of the most interesting documentaries you will see this year, says David Larsen.
The Imposter
The Imposter

Welcome to one of the most interesting documentaries you will see this year, although honesty requires me to admit that the only reason I fronted up to watch it after reading a brief story outline was that it’s my job. Thank goodness for my job.

In 1994, 13-year-old Nicholas Barclay vanished somewhere near his home in Texas. In 1997, someone claiming to be him turned up in Spain, with the wrong colour eyes, and a strong French accent: the result, he said, of years of systematic abuse at the hands of a cabal of high-ranking military officers. Nicholas Barclay’s mother and sister were in no doubt this was their missing boy.

This is where we are, a few minutes into the film: clearly, the new Nicholas is a fake, taking terrible advantage of a grief-deluded family, who will now have to lose their son and brother all over again, after first living for a while with the idea that he spent three years as a sex slave.

But debut director Bart Layton is about to construct a dazzling hall of mirrors, using many ingenious tricks to call our assumptions and sympathies into doubt. The result is undeniably disturbing, partly because it’s so very entertaining, facts of which Layton is clearly well aware. Given the gift of a genuinely stranger-than-fiction story, he manages to create
something stranger still: a film that turns tragedy inside out without trivialising it.

Rating: 4/5

THE IMPOSTER, directed by Bart Layton

Films are rated out of 5: 1 = abysmal; 5 = amazing
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