How on Earth was an entire San Antonio family tricked into believing that a French conman named Frederick Bourdin was their missing 8-year-old boy? This question lies at the heart of The Imposter, a new documentary from British born Bart Layton.
The film opens up in 1997 when the Barclay family is informed that their beloved Nicholas, who stormed out of their home 3 years prior and never returned, had finally been found on the streets of Spain.
When they fly halfway across the world to return him to their Texas town, however, they discover that Nicholas is very different to the person they once knew. He’s much older, his eyes are a different colour, he can no longer speak with an American accent and he has no recollection of his previous life. Yet, somehow, the family still fall prey to this con artist’s lies.
Through stock footage, interviews and brilliantly executed recreations, Layton’s documentary takes us on a journey through the months proceeding and succeeding these absurd events, allowing us to witness how Bourdin pulled off his near-impossible con. It also explores with remarkable compassion why Bourdin was compelled to do such a thing as a result of his hard upbringing and ensuing desire to be loved.
However, as Layton delves deeper into the stories from both sides – the family and the conman – dark and surprising secrets begin to surface, forcing you to reevaluate who you believe are really the victim and the perpetrator in this bizarre situation. The film never offers any definite answers though, brilliantly leaving it to the audience to decide what is truth or fabrication from your understanding of the characters.
The Imposter is a fascinating story, compellingly told with twists, turns and jaw-dropping revelations that will keep you nailed to the edge of your seat as much as any Hollywood thriller.