Catfish (2010)

The 2010 documentary Catfish begins seemingly normal enough. In the beginning of the film we witness the blossoming of an online friendship between Yaniv Schulman, a New York City photographer, and Abby, an 8-year-old prodigal painter. After Abby sends Yaniv a painting she did of one of his photographs, the two of them strike up an online friendship through Facebook.

Through Abby, Yaniv meets her family and friends — her parents, her family friends, and particularly her older half-sister Megan. Yaniv and Megan soon form a long distance relationship that consists of text messages, e-mails, Facebooking, and even late night phone calls.

As time goes on, holes begin to appear in Megan and Abby’s stories. A song that the two of them claim to have written appears to have been recorded by a different artist. A vacant building that Abby’s mom Angela claims has renovated as an art studio for Abby still appears to be on the market. After one too many details fail to add up, Yaniv, his brother Ariel, and director Henry Joost decide to drop in on Abby’s family to find out where the truth ends and the lies begin.

As you can probably guess, not all is what it appears to be, and not everyone is who they appear to be. After the trio visually verify that the art studio is still a vacant building and a horse barn that Megan claims to own is also unoccupied, they decide to drop in on Megan, Abby, and Angela. What happens next is … wow.

The movie’s selling point is its twist ending so I won’t give it away here, but suffice it to say that indeed, not everyone Yaniv was chatting with was who they said they were (in fact, some of them don’t even exist). An awkward dancing around the truth takes place until, eventually, the beans are spilled. And boy, are spilled beans messy. Put it this way; if you’ve ever dated a girl who turned out to be crazy … be thankful she wasn’t this crazy.

The veracity of the film has been strongly argued since its release. The filmmakers have conceded that “some” of the film’s early scenes were “recreated,” but that’s as much as they’ll admit to. Some reviewers have claimed that the story had a “nugget of truth,” which has been inflated — others claim that the whole story from beginning to end is a setup, or at least that our protagonist was “playing along,” to a certain extent. None of those things made the movie any less riveting for me. It’s a good story, regardless.

I, like many people my age, have people I call “friends” that I have never met in real life — people I communicate with on a regular basis that I have never met in person. Many of my online friends I have met only after knowing them online for years. Catfish is a valid reminder that, all that appears online may not be as it seems. This movie is a must-see for anyone who’s ever added a Facebook friend and later thought … I wonder who that is?

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