NZFF: The Imposter (UK, 2012)

Documentary about a family who found their lost son after four years, only it turned out it wasn’t their son at all, it was an imposter. Told from the point of view of the imposter.

This is a heck of a story, and it’s easy to see why people have been eagerly talking about it. The main figures are fascinating (the core family, the increasingly odd imposter), and the supporting characters are memorable (including an FBI agent who is, er, not the best advertisement for that agency, and a Private Investigator who is a born star).

The twists and turns don’t seem quite so gasp-worthy to me though, and probably to anyone else who studied psychology. “How could the family possibly accept this chap was their son?” Well, “very easily”, says psyc. Because if there’s one thing psychologists know that they can’t seem to get into the public domain, it’s that we are way more cognitively fallible than society tells us. You Are Not So Smart.

Like most documentaries I see these days, it is too long – it would probably make for a great BBC 60-minute no-ads TV documentary, but at 90 minutes it really felt like it took ages to get going. Anyone who goes to see documentaries on film (or rents them on DVD) will know this phenomenon though, and it’s pretty forgiveable really.

So, I didn’t gasp and I thought it was long. That sounds pretty negative. Actually I really enjoyed this film, I’m just unwilling to talk about why because it’ll spoil the surprises – and the filmmaker really makes the most of those surprises. Definitely worth your time.