Archive for August 30th, 2012


The Imposter


This film raises more questions than it answers and confirms the edict that truth is indeed stranger than fiction. By the end of Bart Layton’s The Imposter you will be no clearer to learning the truth about what happened to the missing child Nicholas Barclay than you were at the beginning and any sympathies you may have felt for either Frederic Bourdin-the imposter of the title- or Barclay’s family will have diminished through recriminations, accusations, mistrust and outright confusion. It is a compelling document of unravelling events even if it is wholly unsatisfying in its lack of resolve.

The story begins in 1995 when a blue eyed fourteen year old boy goes missing from Texas after a family argument. Reported to the police the case met with little interest and the only people who were overly concerned were the boy’s family. Or were they? Right from the outset there is some doubt about this and it only increases when three years later Bourdin, a twenty three year old dark haired-though dyed, rather obviously, blonde- blue eyed with a dark beard growth, turns up in Spain claiming to be the lost son and brother. It beggars belief that he not only fooled the authorities who delivered him home to the States but what is even more fantastical is that the family accepted him so willingly and without question.

Things get even stranger when the FBI-who are initially so easily duped by Bourdin it raises little wonder how the terrorists behind 9/11 managed to evade their scrutiny- inform the family that there is no way this is the missing Nicholas and they continue to house him and accept him as their kin. By this time Bourdin’s tales of being captured by the military, being sexually abused, forced to speak a foreign language with an accent and having his eye colour changed by drops designed for such a purpose are so fantastical that they have revealed a malevolence-and  a strange knowledge of abuse-which goes way beyond self preservation. Or so it would seem anyway.

Backed into a corner he then deflects attention by claiming that  the Barclay family are complicit in Nicholas’s disappearance and goes far enough to maintain that a family member has murdered him whilst the rest are involved in the cover up. This, he insists, is why they were so willing to shelter him and later harbour him after the truth about his identity is revealed. Polygraph tests are then administered; some are passed but one fail ensures that the matter is never fully cleared up and some doubt remains.

At the centre of this Bourdin, who has been revealed as being on Interpol’s wanted list for identity fraud and other crimes in numerous countries, seems to be relishing the pain not to mention enjoying the attention and recognition his accusations have aroused. Throughout he appears a thoroughly reprehensible human being and his knowledge of abuse raises the question was he ever a victim of such treatment or is he, perhaps, guilty of administering such extreme pain. The fact he claims at the films conclusion that he really does not care about anyone else and his own survival is all that matters does not clarify this as he may have simply built himself a façade to hide behind.

The Imposter therefore offers no solutions, explanations or satisfactory conclusions. It almost feels like a work in progress with the next instalment yet to be delivered. It is however an essential film to see and will leave you spellbound at one person’s chutzpah, the stupidity of others and distrustful of just about everyone involved. It is probably the most paranoid film you may ever see. At its conclusion there are so many questions gnawing away at your psyche that the most important one –Whatever happened to Nicholas Barclay? – is almost a forgotten irrelevance.