In 1994, blond-haired, blue-eyed thirteen-year-old Nicholas Barclay disappeared from his home in Texas. Three years later, he reemerged in Spain. His family accepted him back with open arms. Except the boy who moved into their home was not Nicholas, and he wasn't even a boy. He was Frédéric Bourdin, a 23-year old Frenchman with brown hair, brown eyes and an accent. The Imposter is the gripping new documentary about this unique and disturbing incident.
Directed by Bart Layton, The Imposter features interviews with both the family that so willingly embraced a stranger as their own and Frédéric Bourdin, as well as reenactments of the events that occurred. The result is an engaging, twisted tale that is so ludicrous at times the audience was laughing out loud. But it's all true.
More or less narrated by Bourdin, the serial identity thief - who, according to Wikipedia, has assumed nearly 40 false identities - explains his motivations as to why he did what he did. A compulsive liar, the man started out with a simple lie that quickly spiraled out of control, to the point where multiple United States governmental agencies became involved.
"Fucked," is how Bourdin himself described it.
The story is so immensely crazy on so many levels and begs an array of questions that even after being answered are dumbfounding. How did the family fall for it? How did he get past the FBI investigation? Why did it take a private investigator with no personal connection to the case to reveal the truth?
I'll repeat the first question again: how did the family fall for it?
Layton struck a jackpot with his subject, but thankfully didn't stop there. He has crafted a beautiful, superbly edited "thriller" that is as polished as documentaries come but still immensely personal. It helps that Bourdin is someone who clearly thrives off talking about his exploits, but the way Layton handles the man and his other subjects is impressive.
The Imposter is a documentary that has to be seen to believe. It is confounding, enthralling, entertaining and at times funny, if for no other reason than that the more that is revealed, the more absurd things become. Highly recommended.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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