(director: Bart Layton; cinematographers: Erik Alexander Wilson/Lynda Hall; editor: Andrew Hulme; music: Anne Nikitin; cast: Adam O’Brian (Frédéric Bourdin), Frédéric Bourdin (Himself), Anna Ruben (Carey Gibson), Beverly Dollarhide (Herself), Charlie Parker (Alan Teichman), Ivan Villanueva (social worker), Nancy Fisher (Cathy Dresbach); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Dimitri Doganis; Indomina; 2012-UK)
“Intriguing fictionalized true-crime psychological thriller doc.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Intriguing fictionalized true-crime psychological thriller doc creatively helmed by British TV documentarianBart Layton, that is more interested in suspense than in getting to the truth even though it lets us know from the beginning we are dealing with an imposter. It mixes interviews with an reenactment of events to tell the incredible story of a 23-year-old French-Algerian conman, Frédéric Bourdin, who poses as a missing San Antonio 16-year-old and gets away with it despite offering no concrete proof.
In 1994, the disappearance of 13-year-old blond-haired Nicholas Barclay occurred while walking home in San Antonio, Texas. Three years and four months later the police called his mom, Beverly Dollarhide, that her scared son, without identity papers, was found in Linares, Spain. The older sister Carey Gibson (Anna Ruben) flew to Spain to confirm if it was Nicholas and brings him home after brainwashed by the imposter to believe he was abused and snatched by a slave sex-ring but finally escaped. The imposter tells the FBI a tale of human experimentation that resulted in his change of eye color and other physical changes, to explain why he does not resemble the missing teen.
The film is told from the POV of the imposter Frédéric Bourdin, now 35, who not only did not look like the missing youth but spoke with a heavy foreign accent and offered no childhood memories. How he got away with the scam is attributed to the victim’s family falling for his act because it wanted so desperately to believe even if was so outlandish and also because of the incompetency of the FBI and Interpol agents who conducted the investigation in such a sloppy way.
Because of the newspaper exposure, the colorful Texan private investigator Charlie Parker (Alan Teichman) becomes obsessed with the strange case and gathers evidence proving that this Nicholas is an imposter. This is followed-up by a Houston child psychiatrist giving his expert opinion that this is not the missing American kid. Things then take a twist when the investigating FBI agent Nancy Fisher (Cathy Dresbach) believes that the Barclays had an ulterior motive for so readily buying into the imposter’s story, and opens a homicide investigation that comes to a dead-end. By the film’s end, you will probably think everyone is a liar and have no idea what to make of this crazy but true story.
Bourdin, a sociopath, in the interview segment acts like a smug jerk that he got away with his deception and shows no remorse or concern for the family he hurt. Last year the film The Chameleon and in 2008 a New Yorker piece written by David Grann both used the POV from the family in recounting in a semi-fictionalized version the same case. Last year’s film failed to connect with the public, while this version is on its way to becoming one of those Errol Morris-like detective procedural cult films.
It’s one of those life is stranger than fiction tales that ends appropriately in a semi-lucid way with Jimmie Driftwood singing over the end credits “He Had A Long Chain On.”
REVIEWED ON 12/4/2012 GRADE: B