“Don’t let anyone tell you what it is” the tagline for “Catfish” and this is very true. Your entire enjoyment of this particular film is in not knowing where the storyline is headed. So this will be a brief review and I won’t ruin the movie for others, I’ll just do a basic synopsis and my thoughts on the movie without revealing any spoilers.
In late 2007, amateur filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost started documenting Ariel’s brother, Nev, as a side project. Nev is a photographer and when one of his pictures is posted on the front page of a newspaper, he soon after receives a remarkable painting from an 8-year-old girl, Abby, from rural Michigan who was fascinated with the photo and decided to make a painting of it. Ariel and Henry see this as an interesting story and start filming every aspect of Nev’s and Abby’s interactions. As the months pass, their correspondences grow more and more frequent and he becomes friends with Abby’s mother and sister on Facebook. As the relationship expands he sends her more and more photos that she turns into paintings and the bond between them starts to grow.
Now talking on the phone with Abby’s family on a regular basis, he is invested deep into his relationship with these people that he has never met. So when he is going on a work assignment not far from where they live, he decides it would be great to surprise and meet this family with which he has this deep connection. Can they be as amazing as he has come to think?
Even though it was shot in a documentary-style made popular by “The Blair Witch Project” and recently in horror films like “Paranormal Activity” and “The Last Exorcism,” “Catfish” is not a horror film — it’s a documentary dramatic suspense thriller, but not in the ways that you would expect. It is a reminder of the digital-age in which we live, where you design your Facebook profile to tell the world only what you want them to know about you, but in reality a digital connection does not stand up to a face to face human bond. This is the perfect film for the young generation of Facebookers, iPhone users and those who do the majority of their interactions with people through the internet.
“Catfish” will start off giving you one type of feeling, and then as the story unfolds, you quickly start to doubt yourself and the movie too. I’ve seen interviews with Ariel, Henry and Nev; they talk about the journey of documenting the relationship and turning it into a feature film. Some will not believe the validity of their claims that it is all true and others will just be shocked and perplexed. Made for people of all ages to be able to enjoy, I don’t think those who have narrow views of movies will get this film. If you like documentaries or independent films and are not expecting a blockbuster, then you can really get into the movie and go on the journey of discovery with these three guys.
Be warned, you need to see this movie before anyone can tell you what happens, because just like knowing the end of “Sixth Sense” before you ever got a chance to see it, knowing the final destination will ruin the journey. This film will have you thinking well after it’s over and possibly have you examining parts of your own personal life.
“Catfish” opened in limited release Sept. 17 and is rated PG-13 for sexual references.
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