It’s proving quite a challenge to write about Catfish without completely ruining it for the audience. Bearing that in mind, I’d like to let you know that I’m going to give it 5/5. If you intend on watching the film, and don’t want the experience compromised I would suggest that you stop reading now. Don’t even watch the trailer. Just go the cinema, completely blind, and drink it all in. Don’t even read this review!
Now, I’m going to show you a still from the film and carry on my review underneath. If you’re still here after that, then be warned: there will be some mild spoilers. Not huge ones, but spoilers none the less.
Still here? You fools!
While Catfish is a documentary, it displays all the traits of a sharply written thriller. It was originally set up to document a year in the life of Yaniv “Nev” Schulman, a New York photographer who’s started a platonic online relationship with a child artist named Abby through Facebook. She’s taken to painting pictures recreating Nev’s dance photography stills. While he only communicates with Abby digitally, he speaks to her mother Angela on the telephone and eventually starts talking to Abby’s older sister Megan. They find they have a lot in common – she’s a dancer, he’s a dance photographer, they both share a love of little sister Abby’s artwork – and, despite not having met each other, a digital romance starts to blossom between them.
That’s all I’m prepared to say regarding the documentary’s “plot”.
The story that Catfish presents is very much of its time. It’s an exploration of how social media and the internet have completely revolutionised the manner in which people interact with each other and how online identity can be moulded and shaped to suit the users needs. Directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost provide a running “online” theme throughout the film, using footage from Google maps and Facebook to set up scenarios and jump from scene to scene.
Nev, his older brother Ariel and their friend, and colleague Henry are very much the lead characters in this documentary, and while it would be easy to write them off as cynical New York hipsters, you find yourself empathising with them and eventually feeling touched by their compassion and understanding.
This documentary is for everyone who has ever been in love or used a Facebook account.
There were parts of Catfish where the story was so intense that I felt I couldn’t breathe, and there were parts that very nearly moved me to tears. I can not recommend it enough.