Catfish (2010)
Directors: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman

** WARNING: There is no way to really write this review without some major spoilers.**

So, in a nutshell this documentary is about a NYC photographer, Nev, who connects with a family in Michigan through Facebook. In the course of nine months, Nev began a long distance relationship, online and over the phone, with the eldest daughter, Megan, whom he has never met. Nev’s film maker brother, Rel and his biz partner Henry, document the whole relationship, including the unexpected twists that unfold.

Okay, that is about as much as I can say without giving away the ending. From here on out is one big spoiler…just saying…

So, maybe you should just stop now and go see this movie and come back…

I’ll wait…

Otherwise, I am about to let the cat out of the bag…so you have been warned…

okay?

So, while in Vail on a photo shoot, Nev, Henry and Rel discover that songs supposedly recorded by Megan are actually by another artist. Suspicions arise, and the three decide to make a surprise visit to Michigan to uncover the truth about the woman whom Nev has developed a relationship with. What they find is Angela, a middle aged woman who has created several fantasy characters based on actual people, but using photos she culled from the internet. The woman whom Nev believes is her 19 yr old daughter, Megan, is actually Angela. And this fictitious persona was her way of escaping her secluded life, caring for her severely mentally disabled stepsons. Nev does forgive her and has sympathy for why she did what she did. And they do remain friends.

This documentary was awesome. And it is so phenomenal that they happened to catch it all on film, there has been some controversy as to whether or not the events are actually real. It is well edited and just the lack of emotional drama despite the drama that is unfolding feels pretty real to me.

I do find it odd that the relationship between Megan and Nev went on for 9 months without actually meeting. And in that time Nev is not at all suspicious. Okay granted he is 24 yrs. old and the supposed Megan is pretty hot. Men at that age can be so blinded by their sex drive. But I would think he would have tried to meet her way before nine months. But despite the fact that he was being deceived, I think over that amount of time most of his perceptions about the relationship would actually be his projections of who he thought Megan was. I mean, if Megan were a real person, the story could have actually played out similarly. Online relationships leave a lot of room for you to fill in the unknown spaces with what you hope that person would be.

I also think that Nev and the film makers had such awesome compassion for Angela, despite being deceived. I do not know that I would have handled it quite so compassionately, if I were in Nev’s shoes. And in one of the final scenes where Angela is sketching Nev and they were talking, there is such a palatable finality to their “love affair”. Such sadness when Nev asked Angela to talk to him as Megan one last time. Such tenderness as Angela sketched Nev’s face. The resulting portrait was absolutely awesome and dead on. I think what could have been such a slanderous film for Angela, was edited with such compassion. It was a fine line, Rel and Henry nailed it.

So at this point I have been recommending films that are like the documentary I am reviewing. But when it comes to Catfish, I am at a loss. This documentary is one of a kind. It is really quite good. Do see it, regardless of all the spoilers I have dropped. Here are some links that I found for more info about this film.

CNN interview with Nev, Rel, and Henry

The Ellen Show interview with Nev, Rel, and Henry

An ABC interview with Angela

Angela’s art website

Nev meets the real “Megan” from the pictures

And a bonus video:
Henry’s mom crochets! How awesome is that?