- Vancouver, British Columbia - Relationships sure aren't what they used to be. There was a time where you would know someone for a season of your life and then as that time would come to a close, your relationship with that person may or may not end. And if it did end, you said your farewells and it was left at that. Similarly, you could only really know someone if you actually met them in real life. These days I find I get friend invitations on Facebook from people who I've never met, and I have mixed feelings about that. To some degree it is useful and exciting to have a network of friends beyond your local area, but there is something uncomfortable about it. You never really know if people are who they say they are as you can only get a small glimpse of the life they lead.
Catfish touches on this issue by following Yaniv (goes by Nev) Schulman, a young photographer who receives a painting of one of his photos from a young girl named Abby. His brother and friend start making a film as he gets to know Abby and her family over Facebook. He learns about her mother, Angela and learns that Abby's older half sister, Megan, is a singer/songwriter. Nev and Megan even begin talking over the phone and begin a long distance relationship. However, it isn't long before Nev starts to find out that some of the claims that the family are making aren't true and he and his small film crew decide to pursue the truth and travel to Michigan to meet them.
The starting of the film is a little rough to get through. Something about it all made me feel very uncomfortable and it wasn't particularly interesting. His phone conversations were awkward and the romance between him and Megan was... well, it would be the kind of relationship I would warn my friends to avoid entirely. Though, I should have known that it was leading up something far more interesting. Once it is uncovered that there is some mystery to what is going on and not everyone has been honest, the film starts to become quite compelling.
I know there is some buzz about the movie and I would encourage you to not pay any attention to it. I would recommend not even watching the trailer because it tries to sell the movie to be something that it's not. Also, there is some controversy on whether or not the film is a real documentary. Some people believe that the events in this film are staged. Personally, I believe that it's real and I won't reveal the reasons why because I don't want to spoil anything.
Even if it is a fake and the film itself is a performance, at the very least, it's pretty convincing and I have to give credit to them for that much. Ultimately, whether it's fact or fiction doesn't really matter. The film still has a lot to say.
The events of this film were orchestrated by someone who wanted to escape from reality because they were unsatisfied with the life they wound up living. The relationship between her and Nev wasn't completely fake, even if it was built on false pretenses. They both came from a place where they craved intimacy with one another, perhaps because we live in a world where finding true intimacy is a struggle. Nev is as much to blame as she is.
Facebook, while being a very useful networking tool, has made it easier than ever for people to escape the real world and create their own artificial one. Not only that, but these worlds are more accessible than ever before and anyone could be dragged into it not knowing who is really there. Ultimately, one has to ask what the point is. The film becomes more and more interesting the more we find out the truth which leads me to believe that reality is far more fascinating than fiction. The real person behind the façade glued me to the screen while the fake people on the internet just made me feel unsettled and awkward.
The film serves well as a cautionary tale for our generation. Perhaps not in a traditional sense. I don't believe that most of us will end up in a romantic relationship with a person we don't know or go on grand misadventures across the country. However, I do imagine that many of us will seek intimacy from unusual sources and find ourselves comforted by lies. Catfish shows that reality and real people have more to offer than the shallow humanity we choose to present the world in place of ourselves.
Rating: 4/5 Sour Grapes