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Catfish

Year: 2010
Production Co: Supermarché
Director: Henry Joost/Ariel Schulman
Producer: Henry Joost/Ariel Schulman
Cast: Nev Schulman, Ariel Schulman

It seems a bit late in history for a movie that features Facebook so prominently to make much of an impact, especially so soon after The Social Network.

But like all the best stories about technology this isn't about technology but characters – in this case, true life ones. Three guys (two brothers and their friend) go across America to visit a family they've made friends with on Facebook. The eight-year-old daughter is an accomplished artist who's done paintings based on the photos of photographer Nev. After talking to her, her mother and her older sister Megan, Nev start to fall in love as Megan sends him beautiful photos of herself, works of art and music she's made in his honour.

When they travel to Megan and the family's hometown while covering a nearby art festival, a few things about the family start seeming fishy. Why has Megan been able to send Nev a love song she wrote and performed for him in just half an hour when there's a suspiciously similar song on YouTube? Why is the building the family says has been bought for the eight-year-old's exhibitions still empty and waiting for a buyer, according to the local real estate agent?

And we see it all, someone capturing it all on a handheld video camera. When the trio turn up at Megan's farm in the middle of the night to find the property empty even though she's supposed to be there tending her horses, it actually turns a little scary. In fact the big secret alluded to in the trailer and even in the tagline ('Don't tell anybody what it is') makes it seem like some Deliverance -style psycho is going to jump out and slice them all up with a chainsaw any minute.

The reality is both more subdued and far more heartbreaking, and the films grips you by drip-feeding details as the three guys learn them, snippets from a seemingly Hitchcockian mystery you can't wait to unravel. Like the best-scripted entertainment, the story turns on a dime and you find yourself drawn into the conflicts and worries of the protagonists despite yourself.

The fact that it's so entertaining even while shot on a dodgy handheld handycam with shocking picture quality is yet more proof that all the effects, 3D and cool set pieces in the world don't make a movie if you're watching the same hackneyed Hollywood scripting and characterisations.

It sounds very gimmicky but is actually very sad and heartfelt when the reveal comes. The only big thing that stuck with me was whether the whole thing was staged. I've got my opinion but don't want to influence you – it'll get you thinking about much more than just whether they made it all up, and that's what movies are supposed to do.

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