By Dom Antill

The Imposter is a documentary based on a true story that beguiles its format fusing emotionally charged interviews with visceral film interjections leaving you grappling with what is fact and what is fiction. 

British Director Bart Layton provides a novel experience, with the only discernible facts clarified from the offset, Nicholas Barclay, 13, has been missing since 1994 and, as will come of no surprise, the imposter, isn’t who he says he is. 

The candid recounts of Nicholas’ family traumatised and worn is juxtaposed against the imposter’s jovial, altogether disturbingly manipulative tall tale that at first, while implausible, seems conspicuous enough. 

But the setting is all important here, San Antonio, Texas, provides that classic all American deep-south scene that has so often been the germinal platform for tales to run wild in the relative obscurity of communities firmly in the American bubble. 

The audience is forced to be sceptical, not least of all because you are presented with a lie that is so agonisingly blatant and obvious; it draws genuine laughter that it could be overlooked. 

Here you naturally scrutinise the ‘truth’ from testimonies that you realise are subjective to say the least, opening up a world of possibilities about who you should believe and why. 

The dream-like acting scenes seamlessly align and overlap themselves with the interviewees’ recounts ensuring that you cannot put your finger on the unnerving ambiguities.   

The cinematography is crisp with an indie quirkiness that smears any rough edges, thanks to Layton working closely with Erik Wilson, who shot Submarine (2010). 

The strength of the story lends itself to dramatic licence without needing to deviate from the parameters established. It is as much a thriller as it is a psychological observation of the obscure and desperate. 

By the time real footage is slotted into the fast moving tale it abruptly wakes you from any hazy transient state with the moral compass spinning wildly.

Only a private investigator vehement in perusing the truth provides some reason – it’s all in the ears, he’ll have you know. 

The editing of the interviews is pivotal in drip feeding information that twists and turns the tale’s complexion, a true story presented as a chameleon.   

The finale of the film perhaps snuffs what was building to a crescendo of informational gluttony that instead ends on a flat note which doesn’t really give you enough to be deep in thought any further than the credits – perhaps that’s its final dupe. 

Nonetheless it’s a guarantee that you won’t see a documentary quite like it, or observe self-deception and denial in such a suspiciously clever amalgamation.

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