Friday 17 December 2010

"Catfish" (Metro 17/12/10)

Catfish (12A) 86 mins ****

Everything The Social Network seemed to prophesy about our brave/scary new online world, Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost’s genuinely edgy documentary bears out. In 2008, photographer Nev Schulman – the director’s brother – struck up a Facebook friendship with Abby, an eight-year-old from Michigan apparently responsible for some remarkable paintings based on his work. A friend request followed from Abby’s mother, and Nev even entered into flirty instant messaging with the girl’s half-sister Megan, an aspirant performer too blonde and lissom to be true. Sure enough, the nature of these relationships began shifting in troubling fashion: ominous wall postings and misattributed MP3s are just the start of it.

The gripping slice of American cyber-Gothic that follows prompts perhaps the year’s highest rate of squirms-per-minute. The filmmakers hardly endear themselves in flaunting risqué texts and descending on Abby’s given address en masse; by the end, they’ve achieved a kind of parity with their subjects, but left a tangled, very contemporary ethical nightmare in their wake. You’ll emerge arguing everything from camera angles to which participants most need their heads examining, but it feels like a conversation worth having at a moment where we’re still trying to work out our boundaries. See it, and you’ll think twice before poking anyone again.

Catfish opens in selected cinemas today.

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