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Directed by Bart Layton

At first I thought he was crazy. Director, Bart Layton, chooses to introduce us to Frederic Bourdin in his first theatrical documentary, THE IMPOSTER, as an actual imposter. In 1997, Bourdin, a then 23-year-old French man, successfully passed himself off as a 16-year-old American kidnapping victim from Austin, Texas, fooling everyone from the boy’s immediate family to the American government. I couldn’t figure out why Layton wouldn’t want to fool us too into thinking Bourdin was the real deal, but it turns out he had a very good reason for not doing this. He knew the whole time that this was only the beginning of this story and that he still had many more shocking moments that were sure to blow the viewer’s mind.

Bourdin is a fascinating character and Layton knows it too. He is charming and charismatic, which sometimes distracts the viewer from the heinousness of what he’s doing. We are also occasionally made privy to certain elements of Bourdin’s childhood, or at least we are told what Bourdin wants to tell us that is, which in turn can make us almost sympathetic for his motivation to commit this crime. And then there’s the young boy, Nicholas Barclay’s family. It has only been approximately three years since his sister has seen him but yet she believes it’s her brother the moment he presents himself to her, despite the fact that his eyes are a different colour and he has a French accent. Her need to believe borders on delusion to some extent but this is nothing compared to Nicholas’s mother’s potential reasons to believe.


It is very difficult to know who to trust when watching THE IMPOSTER, but I always trusted Layton implicitly throughout the experience. All of the characters are questionable at one time or another, but yet Layton never pushes us to see them one way or the other. He is also very savvy to know when to reveal new details that will take you in the next direction, which makes for a very unexpected level of suspense in the film. Above all, he treats his subjects with dignity and without bias or judgment, especially Bourdin, which allows what feels like the complete story to come through. Of course, there is no way for this to be true though, as Nicholas Barclay was never found.

4.5 sheep

Your turn!

How many sheep would you give The Imposter?


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