Saturday, 11 August 2012

Movie: Catfish

Keeps you on your toes as the story unravels.

Catfish, a clever idea and an absorbing story.
Catfish tells the story of photographer Nev Schulman and his relationship with eight year old Abby, a talented artist who sends him paintings of his published photos in the mail.  Things then progress as before long Nev has started up an online relationship with Abby’s attractive older sister, Megan, and the ‘documentary’ then switches its attention to how that develops.

Right from the start Catfish has you asking questions and just as you start to formulate a hypothesis as to how all the pieces and clues fit together, the movie then reveals a new twist which has you changing your theory once again.  It really sucks you in and gets inside your head, and even the day after watching it my thoughts kept returning to this movie.

I won’t go into the plot in any greater depth other than to say Catfish provides a powerful lesson regarding the emotional risks of trusting someone you meet on the internet and especially of forming an ‘electronic’ relationship with them.

The initial opening exchange between Nev and his two film-maker flat-mates perhaps comes across as a touch clichéd, but once that is out of the way the script is very impressive and the dialogue comes across as very believable.  Some nice touches, such as Nev’s mood changing from day to day and some jokey banter between Nev and his flat-mates as they investigate things further, add to the realism.

As the climax approaches, the movie ultimately becomes a bit uncomfortable to watch which is partly down to the nature of the story but also because it’s so well edited.  The story is revealed at the perfect pace to keep you asking further questions and just as one mystery is answered another question is asked.  In the end though, everything is explained and things are still being revealed right up until the last few minutes.

The nature of the plot means that Catfish is a tricky movie to review in any great detail without spoiling the story.  Of course that’s true of all movies to some degree but especially so with Catfish because the mystery of what’s really going on is what draws you in and keeps you gripped.

But one thing I can reveal which doesn’t give away any specifics, is an analogy made by one of the less prominent characters during the closing sequence which sums up the nature of the movie perfectly.  As he reveals, when live cod was transported from the US to Japan in transportation tanks, to ensure the cod was tasty at the end of its journey a catfish was added to the tank in order to keep the cod agile and on their toes.  That metaphorically sums up the plot of this movie very accurately, as Nev and his two flat-mates are constantly kept on their toes, as is the viewer, by the twists and turns as the story unravels.

It surprised me to learn after watching this movie that there was a lot of debate as to whether or not Catfish was an actual real documentary, a work of fiction or somewhere in between.  From reading other reviews it’s clear that this is a movie which polarises opinion, and most of the negative reviews seem to be written by viewers who went into this expecting a real documentary but who were ultimately sceptical that this was the case.  My advice would therefore be to approach this like I did with no pre-conceived expectations and view it simply as a story.  Whether real, fake, or a mixture of the two, if you view this purely as an intriguing tale and nothing more, then it’s an engrossing movie.

To sum things up, Catfish shows that if you have a clever idea and an absorbing story, you can produce a movie every bit as entertaining as a big budget Hollywood picture.

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Please note, all promotional images used on this blog remain the copyright of the respective publishers and are used in accordance with 'Fair Use' legislation for review purposes.

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