When director Bart Layton stumbled upon a real-life case in which a missing child appears to be recovered three years after his disappearance, he found the perfect story to portray in his documentary, “The Imposter.”
Told solely through narration from interviews, “The Imposter” revolves around two separate narratives: the disappearance of 13-year-old Nick Barclays from Antonio, Texas, in 1994 and the story of Frederic Bourdin, a 23-year-old Frenchman who posed as a teenage runaway across Europe. When Bourdin pretends to be Nick, three years after Nick disappeared, the stories of Frederic and the Barclays family intersect, and the Barclays family welcome Bourdin into their home in Texas.
Because the real Nick disappeared, the audience cannot discover what really happened to the boy, so there is a speculative element to “The Imposter.” The narrative structure of the film creates a sense of mystery, and the viewers try to figure out what happened to Nick as the story bounces back and forth between Nick and Bourdin. This is an effective technique to create a sense of drama for viewers who may not be familiar with the story.
The dramatizations are a clever way to illustrate the story. However, Frederic isn’t the only “imposter” in the film — sometimes the visuals don’t match the storyline. During scenes when the re-enactors of the Barclay family and Frederic are driving around San Antonio, mountains are visible in the background — mountains that are not consistent with the geography in San Antonio. The mountains as well as the end credits indicate that the reenactments were shot in various parts of Arizona, not Texas, which lessens the film’s credibility.
Layton does an admirable job at illustrating and telling Nick Barclay’s and Frederic Bourdin’s story in “The Imposter” with his ability to accurately depict the mysterious aspects of the case and solidifies his ability to tell a good story.
Overall rating: 2 ½ stars
The documentary surrounds the disappearance of 13-year-old Nick Barclays in 1994.