Cinema Review: The Imposter

DIR: Bart Layton • PRO: Dimitri Doganis • DOP: Lynda Hall, Erik Wilson • ED: Andrew Hulme • DES: Marcia Calosio,  Mariona Julbe • CAST: Adam O’Brian, Frederic Bourdin

Texas, June, 1994. Thirteen year old Nicholas Barclay is last seen playing with his friends, and somewhere along the short walk back to his house, disappears. Spain, June, 1997. Nicholas Barclay has been found alive and well by local police, who contact his family who have believed him to be dead. They bring him home, and the family are finally whole again. But this isn’t sixteen year old Nicholas Barclay; this is a 23-year-old French man by the name of Frédéric Bourdin, impersonating their son. And this isn’t devised in the mind of a Hollywood screenwriter; this is a documentary and one of the best movies of the year so far.

If the above paragraph seemed a bit spoilery, it isn’t. All the cards are laid on the table in the first five minutes of the movie, and the remainder of the time is spent watching the Barclay family and Bourdin slowly reach a head-on collision as its revealed who’s who. Outside of the talking-head interviews with everyone involved, the ‘dramatic recreations’, editing and score give the documentary a psychological thriller vibe, one that only hammers home the chilling fact that this is all based on fact.

Like any psychological thriller worth its salt, not everything is as it seems, and even though we’re presented with all the information from the get-go, and how it ends is evident from the beginning, the movie still has a few jaw-dropping tricks up its sleeve, and watching the net close in around Bourdin is hugely entertaining to watch. But unlike any psychological thriller of recent times, The Imposter will linger in your mind for days afterwards. Highly recommended.

Rory Cashin

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
102 mins

The Imposter is released on 24th August 2012

The Imposter – Official Website


IFI Stranger Than Fiction 2012: The Imposter

The IFI Stranger Than Fiction 2012 kicked off on Thursday evening with the Gala Festival Opening sold-out screening of The Imposter. A packed cinema was treated to a documentary that perfectly encapsulated the title of this festival. Director Bart Layton was in attendance at the screening to give the audience an insight into this bizarre, fascinating story.

The first 5 minutes of the film tell how 13 year-old Nicholas Barclay disappeared from his family home in San Antonio, Texas in 1994. Three and a half years later, he is found curled up in a telephone box on a rainy night in Spain and is reunited with his family.

Best not to say anymore about what follows, but gobsmacking would seem an appropriate way to describe the unfolding extraordinary events of this Twilight Zone story of fact.

Layton has skillfully constructed a documentary that pulls the audience right into the eye of the storm and challenges their conceptions of truth and willingness to believe. Employing interviews, home movies, news archives and a series of dramatic reenactments, the film is a chilling tale of phenomenal proportions that is guaranteed to leave jaws on the floor as the outlandish series of events take shape and mould this brain-scrunching story.

If you missed it last night, the good news is it opens for an extended run in the IFI from next Friday, 24th August. Believe me you don’t want to miss it.

And as for IFI Stranger Than Fiction 2012, if The Imposter is a taste of things to come, we’re in for a wallop of a feast.

Steven Galvin

IFI Stranger Than Fiction 2012 continues today:


Film Ireland Commissioning Editor is joined by Bart Layton (The Imposter) and Paul Duane (Very Extremely Dangerous) for a discussion about all things documentary.


This year’s Audience Award winner at Sheffield Doc/Fest, 5 Broken Cameras, co-directed by Palestinian citizen Emad Burnat and Israeli citizen Guy Davidi, chronicles a five-year period in the former’s hometown of Bil’in, a small Palestinian village in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

20:30 – ONE MILE AWAY (Irish Premiere) – One of the protagonists will attend

Penny Woolcock returns to the site of her 2009 fictional feature film, 1 Day, for this powerful documentary about fueding gangs in Birmingham, the city with the highest level of gun crime in Britain.

Click here for details of the screenings at this year’s Stranger Than Fiction Documentary Festival in the IFI

Keep an eye on for coverage of the festival as it happens.





Competition: Win Tickets to ‘The Imposter’ with Director Bart Layton in Attendance, which launches IFI Stranger Than Fiction 2012


Thanks to the good people at the IFI, we have tickets to attend The Imposter, which screens as part of the Opening Gala of IFI Stranger Than Fiction 2012 on Thursday, 16th August at 19.00. Director Bart Layton will be in attendance for what promises to be a great night.

For a chance for you and a friend to be there on Thurs, simply email with ‘IFI Stranger Than Fiction‘ in the subject line.

The winners will be notified before 17.30 tomorrow evening.

Bart Layton may be a first-time feature director but his stunning debut The Imposter has made a massive impact at festivals around the world. Bart will attend the Gala Festival Opening on Thursday, 16th at 7pm and take part in a Q+A after the film. This is your chance to get a sneak preview of the film before its much-hyped upcoming release. True-to life stories don’t get more thrilling or perplexing than this story of an adult Frenchman who successfully passes himself off as a 16 year-old Texan, who has been missing for three years. Full of twists and extraordinary revelations, The Imposter is a must-see.