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The Imposter Review

By David Kempler

Preposterously Watchable

Bart Layton's documentary, "The Imposter", is my favorite kind of documentary. It presents an improbable group of people who almost couldn't really exist, but they do, and the lunacy of their combination and the unbelievable unlikelihood of how their paths cross is five steps past bizarre.

In 1994, in San Antonio, Texas, Nicholas Barclay, a 13-year-old boy, went missing. His family was thrown into grief, hoping for his return, but feared him murdered. Three years later a miracle happened. Nicholas was located. He wasn't in town or in a neighboring county. He was in Spain. A pair of tourists found the frightened youngster curled in the fetal position of a phone booth at night, rain pouring down.

"The Imposter" is not what it appears to be, but we find that out almost immediately, so I am not giving away anything major when I tell you that the boy in the phone booth is not Nicholas. It's Frédéric Bourdin, a 23-year-old con artist. Yet, somehow he convinces the Spanish police, the FBI, and most amazingly, the entire family of Nicholas Barclay. Yeah, I know what you're thinking. How could his family not recognize that the person standing in front of them was not their Nicholas. It's impossible, right? Apparently not. Then "The Imposter" gets really weird.

The story that Frédéric spun was that he had been abducted by a secret military organization that held him captive for three years, torturing and raping him. They also broke his hands and various other body parts, which would account for his different appearance. The most amazing part is that Nicholas had blue eyes while Frédéric has brown eyes. His explanation is that his tormentors injected something into his eyes that turned them brown. While watching all of this unfold all you can do is shake your head in disbelief at how gullible the Barclay family is.

What follows is so difficult to believe that you sit there and wonder if everyone hasn't gone totally mad. By the time it's over, everything is not definitively answered but no doubt you will come to a conclusion that will make you marvel at the unlikely set of circumstances needed for such a deranged tale to occur in real life. It's all true, though, and I guarantee that if you see it, you will be talking about it for quite some time.

What did you think?

Movie title The Imposter
Release year 2012
MPAA Rating NR
Our rating
Summary A 13-year-old boy from Texas disappears, only to appear three years later in a phone booth in Spain. His story is strange. The truth is weirder.
View all articles by David Kempler
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