Review – The Imposter

The Imposter screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

There are stories you hear about a friend’s cousin’s sister’s best friend that tread the line between the truth and urban legend. ‘The Imposter’ is a documentary that plays out like town gossip blown out of proportion, but the reality of the events that take place are astounding.

A 13 year-old boy, Nicolas Barclay goes missing in 1994. Years later his family discovers that Nicolas is alive and has been found overseas. Through a series of interviews and reenactments the story of Nicolas’s reappearance is told.

The mystery of ‘The Imposter’ and the way director, Bart Layton crafts the story using the different perspectives of the Barclay family, FBI agents, private investigators and “Nicolas” is amazing. No work of fiction could come close to recapturing this shocking saga and all the twists along the way. The reenactments add to the drama to help visualise what takes place, and that further enables you to live each moment to help determine what you choose to believe in the tale.

The comforting thought of “it’s too good to be true” festers in the brain but so often this sentiment is challenged throughout the film. A few people that partake in the documentary are masters of manipulation which only makes matters worse. Suddenly, an internal struggle of the cynical mindset verses one of a true believer wages war for headspace, but one thing is certain … jaws will drop.

Despite remaining on the fence with the subject matter for most of ‘The Imposter’, Layton does trip up toward the finale. As a documentary it becomes slightly manipulative of the tragedy surrounding the Barclay family regardless of what verdict you choose to make about the situation.

‘The Imposter’ is an unnerving experience and a brilliant piece of documentary filmmaking that peels back the layers on one of the most perplexing true stories.


Cameron Williams
The Popcorn Junkie

‘The Imposter’ does not have an Australian release date.

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