The Imposter is a debut film from Bart Layton, a documentary featuring interviews with the subjects themselves and footage from the time expertly spliced with dramatisation.
The story is too incredible to be fiction. In 1994, a 13 year old Texan boy Nicholas Barclay disappears without a trace. In 1997, Frédéric Bourdin, a homeless French man in Spain, claims to be the missing Nicholas. Frédéric manages to dupe both the Spanish and American officials, and (perhaps) Nicholas’ family. This is incredible due to the below physical differences between the two boys.
|Nicholas Barclay||Frédéric Bourdin|
|Would have been 16 in 1997||Aged 23 in 1997|
|American accent||French accent|
|Blue eyes||Brown eyes|
|Blond hair||Dark hair|
We are told of the deception at the beginning of the movie. Frédéric talks us through how he managed to pull it all off. Frédéric explains the motive behind his deceit is a sort of necessity arising from the fact that he didn’t have a family or support “A new identity was a real passport, an American passport, I could go to the US, go to the school there, live with that family and just being someone and don’t never again to worry about being identified.”
We subsequently discover that he has a long record of impersonating various different children (which continued after 1997), I wonder if, had he been successful in impersonating Nicholas for the long run, he would have been satisfied in that life. It seems he was addicted to impersonating others.
The impersonation is eventually (although not as quickly as we would expect) uncovered by the FBI. A private investigator comes into the picture asking why the Barclay family so easily accepted Frédéric as their son. This thread is not resolved during the movie itself, but just raising the question was an interesting twist that I didn’t see coming.
Layton and producer Dimitri Doganis won the BAFTA for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, of which they are very deserving. This is a fantastic documentary which had me interested and entertained throughout. The film intertwines dramatisations and interviews in a novel and exciting way.
Have you seen The Imposter? What did you think?