Director    Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Starring    Yaniv Schulman, Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman, Megan Faccio, Abby Faccio, Angela Faccio
Release    17 SEP (US) 17 DEC (UK)    Certificate 12A
5 stars


19th December 2010

If you want to get the best out of Catfish, stop reading this review immediately and just go see it - it's in cinemas and available to watch online now. The movie's marketing team know an enigmatic approach is key, as its ads suggest you "don't let anyone tell you what it is" a la Psycho - the first hint you're in for a surprise that's nasty and nice in equal measure.

It's a bizarre feeling to go into a film almost completely blind in today's info-heavy, micro-blogged society, particularly a documentary rooted so deeply in online culture. But I implore you: with Catfish, the less you know, the better it is. And it is excellent.

For those of you who stuck around, cheers, but I can only relate to you my own personal experience of Catfish. I'm work in movies all day and night, yet I'm ashamed to say it wasn't on my radar until literally its week of release. A flurry of activity (trailer, print ads, UCC5) piqued my interested, and the ability to watch it legally via my PS3 in the comfort of my own home on the day of release sealed the deal. Seriously, why don't more film companies do this? It was cheaper than the price of a cinema ticket and I paused to watch Peep Show halfway through. (Okay, it was buffering. Still not perfect yet, then).

[gallery]All I knew before sitting down to watch Catfish was that it's a documentary about a New York photographer called Yaniv 'Nev' Schulman who enters into a Facebook correspondence with an 8 year-old painting prodigy from Michigan named Abby. Eventually, Nev becomes online friends with her entire family, including her mother Angela and her older sister Megan, with whom he shares email exchanges, photos and intimate phone conversations. Slowly, it becomes clear through a little sleuthing that something isn't right. Why? I'll leave you to discover that one - you probably already have an idea, but watching Nev come to this realisation is the reason Catfish is so absorbing.

There have been numerous discussions online as to whether Catfish is genuine, whether elements of the film have been embellished, or that it's been reverse engineered from a germ of a story into a meticulously crafted, slow-burn thriller. All of these discussions are pretty much irrelevant. Whether it's fact, fiction or somewhere in between, Catfish is a human interest story capable of manipulating a menagerie of emotions: it'll make you laugh, wince and cry - and it never, ever feels phony. It had a strange hold over me from the moment things start to go ass-backwards.

It helps that Nev is a smiley, affable New Yorker, with a documentarian for a brother, whose keen eye for a story ensures his camera is never switched off. There's a definite sense of chasing a narrative that might put some viewers off (though the lines of decency are rarely crossed), but you can't argue with how the story develops naturally - it'd be a foolish filmmaker who didn't dare pull at the strands that start to unravel. Nev, bless him, remains a thoroughly decent human being throughout.

I'm straying too close to detail again, so I'll wrap up by saying that Catfish is a unique documentary - like Capturing The Friedmans, it starts as one thing and mutates into a completely different, terrifying animal halfway through - yet anyone with an online presence will be able to relate to it. I won't tell you what Catfish is, but I will tell you that you simply have to see it for yourself.

Follow us on Twitter @The_Shiznit for more fun features, film reviews and occasional commentary on what the best type of crisps are.
We are using Patreon to cover our hosting fees. So please consider chucking a few digital pennies our way by clicking on this link. Thanks!

Share This