Published Oct 11, 2012In 1994, 13-year-old Nicholas Barclay went missing in San Antonio, TX. Three years later, the phone rang at the Barclay residence and his parents were advised their son had been found in Spain. The eldest sister made the trek overseas to retrieve her sibling and found him traumatised, anxious and incredibly "different" than when she had last seen him.
Upon arriving back in Texas, the Barclay family welcomed the young man into their home without question. What they didn't know, or weren't willing to admit, is that this 16-year-old boy was not their son, Nicholas, rather, it was Frédéric Bourdin, a 23-year-old French con artist. How could Nicholas's mother and siblings not realize this was not the right person?
The story is an excellent example of "truth is stranger than fiction" and is the sort of narrative primed for the Hollywood blockbuster treatment. Director Bart Layton's The Imposter dives into this unreal tale of a human mockingbird who, through a series of circumstances, assumes the identity of young Nicholas and resultantly creates an avalanche of deception that leaves him trapped by his own game.
Upon the unraveling of Bourdin's hoax, the film begins to question what really happened to Nicholas, positing that a now deceased member of the Barclay family may have actually killed the boy. This is just one of the possible reasons why the family was willing to accept the stranger into their family: an attempt to conceal the truth.
The now aged Bourdin drives Layton's unique docu-drama, narrating the chain of events that led to the eventual identity theft. Flipping between interviews with members of the family, law enforcement and other key players, we are painted a vivid picture of a tale that shocks and raises even more questions. Intensifying the suspense are numerous overly dramatic re-enactments of key events of the story, most of which are reminiscent of something you'd see on Dateline NBC.
Relentlessly suspenseful, The Imposter manages to remain an unbiased doc for its duration, as Layton allows all of his subjects to speculate and share their opinions without passing judgement. It is an astonishing hall-of-mirrors tale that will leave you wondering which mirror conceals the truth. (eOne)