“The Imposter,” a new true-crime documentary directed by Bart Layton about a missing and then seemingly found child, is a bulging sandwich containing layer-upon-layer of deceits. The movie is set in Texas where blond 13-year-old Nicholas Barclay disappeared in 1994, and in Spain where imposter Frédéric Bourdin turns up three years later claiming to be the now older Nicholas.
Suddenly we’re awash in Neptune territory. We’ve got Bourdin’s merging with someone else’s identity, his lies, and his attempts – he’s already 23 – at a physical makeover. Also in full view is the other murky side of Neptune – massive gullibility from the missing boy’s family and their refusal to see through this sham. Nicholas’s sister flies to Spain to bring her brother back to Texas – despite the fact the boys’ eye-colors don’t match, and Bourdin speaks with a foreign accent. One U.S. Embassy administrator is astonishingly inept at recognizing that they’ve all been had.
Fortunately, a doubting private investigator in the U.S. named Charlie Parker carries the Saturnian reality principle. Eventually Bourdin – dramatic recreations are involved – explains his coldly hatched scheme. The imposter’s intent provides a toxic dose of Pluto and sadly evokes the underworld which the real Barclay may indeed already be part of. And all because, as Bourdin says, “For the longest time, I wanted to be someone else.”
“The Imposter” underscores the lengths to which a criminal will go to seduce for gain. It also pulls no punches about people who desperately want and need to hold on to hope. Illusion – found both in Bourdin and Barclay’s family – floods this movie like an intoxicating nectar.
Rating: ♆+ (Neptune-plus)