It has been said time and time again that truth is stranger than fiction. Nowhere is this more evident than in the oft-overlooked category of documentary.
In the cinema, the genre of documentary has been distorted of late with horror writers trying to recreate the success of films such as The Blair Witch Project with the use of "found footage" in the style of a loosely-themed documentary -Troll Hunter, The Devil Inside - but to those who are willing to take the chance and try something alittle different, there are gems out there to be discovered - Project Nim, Catfish...
Now, another opportunity to not see the genre as only something that appears on BBC2 or Channel 4 during weekday evenings presents itself with the added punch of "if it wasn't true, you wouldn't believe it happened" weaved into it its very core.
Director Layton seems to have taken onboard suggestions from the producer of the riveting doc Man On Wire and used them to create a slow-buring but none-the-less engrossing depiction of the lengths that people can go to to either disguise or accept human nature in all its weird wonder. Within the first ten minutes you are presented with the full story - that of the disappearance of Nicholas Barclay from his home and family in June 1994 and his subsequent discovery three years later in a small town in Spain. So far, so back page news. Then, the screen pauses and the footage rewinds back to the beginning and all the details and interviews between the highlights are laid out for the audience to digest, contemplate and decide on whether they could have done the same things in the those circumstances.
With the combination of interviews with all the real people involved and recreations of the events they describe, Layton is able to pull you along to exactly where he wants you to be - a place of suspended disbelief of why and how a 23 year old Frenchman would pass himself off as a missing 12 year old Texan boy AND then be taken in by the family of said missing boy. But for this to be a 'doc that would rock" your world, it obviously doesn't end there. The Frenchman Bourdin is frankly mesmerising as he explains calmly and plainly the reasons of why he needed to take the identity of a missing child and, as the story progresses, more and more incredulously at what the family around him accepted and his reasons for why they did according to him. This, tied in with the actions of the authorities and their intentions behind them - to look good in the eyes of the press and respective superiors - puts you into a perfect state to be led rather than to guess at the unfolding events. You think that the story of the family and their interloper will end up with a frankly Jerry Springer-esque finale but, as stated before, fact is stranger than fiction and here, with both parties giving up their side of the lie, all presented here is fact.
Now, you may feel cheated that the ending that seems to be hinted at does not come to pass, but that should be all the more satisfying since it only cements the fact that you're not being lied to or being force fed a line to "entertain" you. The last 20 minutes of its 99 minute running time starts to pull the rug from under you whilst helping you to question exactly how some people can behave and be allowed to mingle with others.
A intriguing documentary that thrives in the cinema environment but one that most people would settle to watch on the usual BBC2 or Channel 4 stage, The Imposter is worthy of your time and effort, even if the people upon reflection, aren't.
UK release date: 24.08.12