The Imposter *****

Director: Bart Layton
Country: UK
Rated: R
Showing: At BUEI at 5:15pm on Sunday. Preceded by Italy, Love It Or Leave It at 3pm.


The Imposter is a compelling film noir documentary circling in the mazes of deception.

It is an excellent, mind-boggling film about a story that would be completely unbelievable if it weren’t true.

In Bart Layton’s gripping documentary, French serial imposter Frédéric Bourdin, an extraordinarily talented compulsive con artist, gets to tell us a personal story, one of his many twisted and delusional tales, of a missing teenage boy from Texas named Nicholas Barclay.

In 1994, 13-year-old blond, blue-eyed Nicholas doesn’t return home from a basketball game in San Antonia Texas. Three and half years later his family receives an astonishing call stating that he had been found extremely traumatized in a small town called Linares, Spain. The rest of the film unravels the bizarre ‘reunification’ of the family and the 23-year-old French Algerian, olive skinned, brown-eyed Frédéric Bourdin posing as the family’s long lost missing child.

The real life private detective Charlie Parker is the icing on the cake, Parker is a larger-than-life Texan in braces, white shirt and tie, slicked back snowy hair and a chirpy demeanor, fictional character made in flesh.

Blurred boundaries

Layton with the use of cinematography, characters and the hard to believe true-life events deliberately blur the distinguishing boundaries between fiction and documentary.  The film, with the stylistically re-enacted scenes, through the use of mise-en-scène and the well-calculated suspense structure constantly oscillates between mysterious, gloomy film noir and a mind-blowing true crime documentary.

‘Deception’ is under investigation here, ‘deception’ of any kind in multitude layers and levels. How Bourdin with his increasingly complicated con game in the Nicholas Barclay’s incident manages to fool countless times authorities, press, police, the family and the entire US.

The family has a single unified voice and conviction almost like a singular character, is it possible that the very family Bourdin is trying to deceive is also diabolically talented and deceiving him in return? Or the psychology of desperation to reunite missing Nicholas led the family to self-deception to an extent?

As Bourdin tries to pursue his case with Nicholas’s family, the audience’s opinion and feeling constantly kept in shift through out the film. Bourdin the troubled soul, an un-wanted deeply hurt child in search of a family, warmth and love, Bourdin the charming, evil sociopath. The truth becomes almost an ultimate unattainable myth as the seductive pathological liar taking us deeper into the rabbit hole.

The Imposter introduces a new twist on every turn, keeping us on cliffhangers while raising more questions than it answers. It is a true contemporary story-telling.