Words: Saam Das
'Catfish' received overwhelming plaudits during its US festival runs earlier in the year. Although I found much of the film absorbing, I was disappointed with the pay off. While some of that was undoubtedly due to the raised expectations/hype, the main reason I suspect for my disappointment was the marketing.
It really is true when people tell you that the less you know about 'Catfish', the better. As a result, this review will be extremely tight fisted with regards to any significant details about the film. I'm not even going to link to the full length trailer, which I had seen prior to viewing 'Catfish', and which I wish I hadn't in retrospect. The trailer frames the film as a suspenseful thriller, worthy of Hitchcock, which is somewhat misleading.
Perhaps your innate curiosity means that you're still pondering what the film is about. It's about an hour and a half. Chortle. No but really, it's best if I don't really tell you all that much. Essentially, it's a documentary charting the progress of an online relationship and examining the concept of identity in the age of social networking. Indeed, with 'The Social Network' producing such a masterful account of the origins of Facebook earlier in the year, 'Catfish' comes along and shows us the other side of the social networking sites that pervade our everyday lives.
There is an overlying question of whether the film itself is truly a documentary or whether it has been fabricated. While the filmmakers (who are often on camera during 'Catfish') insist the film documents an entirely truthful experience, I'm not so convinced. Certain parts of the story don't add up for me (e.g sixteen Facebook friends) but regardless, this aspect actually plays neatly into the themes of the film itself.
I suspect that the filmmakers looked at how the Joaquin Phoenix mockumentary ('I'm Still Here') performed so miserably at the box office following his confession that it was a hoax and wanted to avoid a similar failing. Or it is actually all true. In the end, it doesn't matter. 'Catfish' is fascinating at times, and anticlimactic at others, but dispelling the myth that it is a "thriller" will lead to a more rewarding viewing experience.
'Catfish' is on limited release across the UK now.