Film review: The Imposter

Note:  Thanks to Seb, I’m now using a rather better approach to finding recent films worth watching.  I’ve started watching episodes of “The Tudors'” series as well, which are interesting, if a little on the flashy (and fleshy) side.  Below, last night’s film.

Detective, in The Imposter

Detective, in The Imposter

The Imposter is not an uninteresting documentary, although it is marred by a distracting TV-docudrama-ish music track.  When I picked it for viewing, I thought the film might be modern rendering of The Return of Martin Guerre.  (Incidentally, I’ve always loved Janet Lewis’s book by that title; I’d like to see the 1982 film again — which was very good — too, although Netflix doesn’t offer it for some reason.)  But Imposter turns out to be a little more like Catch Me If You Can, although not much like it either.  The story is easily rendered, although its implications for human identity, family relationships, and the role of the state are complex, interesting, and, in the end, unresolved.  It goes like this:  An unfortunate French-Algerian (in effect) “orphan/con man” manages to adopt the identity of a child missing from his San Antonio, Texas home for four years.  This bold and callous action on the imposter’s part sets in motion the Texas family’s efforts to bring the boy home.  He’s no child, incidentally — 23 years old, passing himself off as a would-be 16-year-old.  He’s also physically unlike the child whose identity he’s pilloried.  Once the U.S. family gets involved, the story unfolds along an ineluctable trajectory for the imposter, although, and at the same time, it also brings two pretty astonishing surprises.  The first is this:  Why can’t this family recognize this is not their child?  I won’t give out the second surprise here, beyond saying that it derives from a possible meaning of the family’s tone deafness toward the kid’s identity.  An inquisitive and aged private detective (pictured above), who becomes only tangentially involved in the case, notices a detail that begins to crack the situation open, like a watermelon dropped from chest height.  He, too, will have a odd take on the potential meanings of the family’s blindness and the imposter’s masquerade.  I recommend the film.  It’s a page-turner and a study in deception from both sides, deceiving others (from the imposter’s side) and deceiving oneself (from the family’s).  Too bad about the garish and distracting background music.

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