Catfish

One of the most unexpected films I’ve seen in a while, “Catfish” poses a terrible problem for anyone tasked with reviewing it. The whole enterprise is based on a twist about two-thirds of the way in and to spoil it would be unethical.

The film began its life at the Sundance Film Festival, where it caused such a sensation that it started a bidding war among those who wanted to distribute it. It’s now made its way to theaters, and I encourage you to check it out.

There is very little that can be told about the plot of this “documentary” film.

Directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, “Catfish” follows the story of Ariel Schulman’s brother, Nev. Nev is a photographer who has struck up a Facebook relationship with a young 8-year-old painter named Abby. Abby was so moved by one of his photographs that she painted it and sent it to him. This simple act spurred Nev to become friends with Abby’s entire family, including her mother, Angela, and her 19 year-old sister Megan.

Nev becomes attracted to Megan through her photographs and phone calls and the two start a very tentative relationship. As Nev becomes more entangled in the family’s dramas, the more suspicious he becomes of their true identities.

Here is where I stop telling you about the further details of the plot. Suffice it to say, that the narrative unfolds in a completely unpredictable and surprisingly touching way.

The film is nothing less than a meditation on how our lives have been forever altered by the rise of our online society. Our reliance on networking through Facebook, texts and email messages have given us, perhaps, a false sense of community. We can only truly know someone when they are standing right in front of us.

Ultimately, we must ask ourselves if what we’ve watched is indeed truth or fiction. I must admit that I believe it’s fictional. In my opinion, the “faux-documentary” genre is getting played out.

However, when one comes along that is as clever and chilling as this one, I can be persuaded to give it one more chance.

Forget the clumsy “Blair Witch” marketing, throw all your pre-conceptions out the window, and check out this one-of-a-kind experience.

CATFISH. Dir: Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost. Rated PG-13

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