The Imposter, a totally involving documentary from director Bart Layton, is one of the few films that you won’t be able to out-guess, unless you already happen to know the story of Frederic Bourdin.
For 27 years, Robert Denerstein was the film critic at The Rocky Mountain News. Read more of Robert's reviews at Denerstein Unleashed.
Bourdin insinuated himself with a Texas family by pretending to be Nicholas Barclay, a teen-ager who disappeared in 1994. More than three years later, Bourdin — in Spain at the time — pulled off what appears to be an impossible ruse. A 23-year-old man with a French accent, he claimed to be a 16-year-old American. To make matters more bizarre, Bourdin — interviewed extensively throughout the course of Layton’s film — looked nothing like Barclay. Barclay’s family accepted him anyway. But there’s much more to the story than that. Normally, I don’t like documentaries that rely heavily on re-enactments, as this one does. But Layton’s mixture of interviews, home videos and recreated drama works to create one of the most perplexing movies of the year — and I mean that in a good way.
We watch in a state of semi-amazement as Bourdin tells his story, and eventually falls under the suspicion of a private investigator. Gradually, the focus of The Imposter shifts into even weirder territory. It’s best to say no more — other than to tell you that Layton’s film probably will have you shaking your head in disbelief, quite an achievement for a documentary about a true story in which truth turns out to be the most difficult thing to find.