By: Addison Wylie
In this day and age, technology plays a key part in our lives. If we want something, there will most likely be a website that carries an infinite inventory and ships immediately. If we need to find out directions, we can find the quickest route in a matter of minutes. If we need a friend, there’s sure to be another hopeful soul searching through a forum for potential pals. Catfish captures these modern day tendencies in an authentic form. It chronicles relationships and how our emotions can be easily toyed with depending on what we see or hear. We focus on what’s being shown to us at face value. However, there are moments where elements seem fishy; as if things are too good to be true. Catfish is about this as well.
Before I dive into a plot synopsis, I must hand out a warning. If you feel you want to know more about this movie, read on, however, the best viewing experience of this film is if you, the viewer, know hardly anything about this documentary. Watching this movie blindly is an experience in its own. The documentary will make you feel a variety of emotions but if you go into this film knowing little to nothing at all, those emotional ups and downs are going to feel more powerful. I will go forth with the synopsis but if you want to take my advice, feel free to skip to the next paragraph. With all this said, in this chilling but trustworthy documentary, Nev Schulman, a New York City photographer, lives with his two roommates; his brother Rel and their friend Henry. One day, Nev receives a package from a little girl named Abby. Nev opens it to find a water colour painting of one of his photographs that was featured in a paper. Nev begins a pen-pal relationship over Facebook with Abby; sending her oodles of his pictures for her to paint. In order to get to know her family a bit more, Nev decides to touch base with Abby’s mother. Nev then gets various friend requests from Abby’s family thanking him for acknowledging her talents. One of these family members is Abby’s older sister, Megan. Megan and Nev start to talk and they soon form a relationship that over becomes a quasi-long distance boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. Nev desperately wants to meet Megan face-to-face but overtime they try to plan a get-together, the plans fall through on Megan’s end. Nev, becoming more curious and suspicious, decides to travel to Michigan and see if Megan really exists. While Nev’s Facebook adventures go on, Rel and Henry, who are aspiring filmmakers, have been documenting Nev’s life and embark on the road trip with their cameras to meet Megan; hoping to capture a story that proves that love can be found online nowadays. Little do these three know that their film is about to take many twists and turns along the way.
The advertising makes Catfish out to be a mysterious horror film. However, this is not the case whatsoever. There are no Facebook ghosts or goblins out to get Nev and the three friends aren’t faced with an inevitable, grisly demise. Nevertheless though, is the film unsettling? Absolutely. Eerie? You bet. The film proposes situations and ideas that are uncomfortably real. The documentary ends up, unknowingly, tackling the online social network issue and debates as to whether it can be trust-worthy or not. The messages never feel heavy handed and it leaves a lot up to the viewer to make decisions relating to if we were in Nev’s position. Would you approach a mysteriously interesting relationship over Facebook with ease or caution? Especially when the family seems dependable? Rel Schulman and Henry Joost started off with a treatment for a sweet, insight into online personalities and ended up having a completely different thesis by the end of the film; these two filmmakers have a very enthralling, debatable film on their hands.
It’s not to say that the film isn’t technically competent either. A good third of this film is made up of Facebook messages, Google maps, YouTube videos, and e-mails. What’s amazing about these images is that they still manage to tell a story without making its audience disinterested. The average movie goer might’ve felt ripped off that they paid for a movie ticket to read and see things that they see everyday at work or at home. But, with Catfish, the images are edited in such an affecting way by Zachary Stuart-Pontier that the viewer can’t help but feel pulled in by Nev and the Faccio family’s online rapport. It’s also helpful that Rel and Henry kept the camera rolling at all times in order to capture the realism that took place during this experience. The two directors manage to capture emotional roller coasters by all the personalities presented, including themselves. The original music provided by Devo lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh compliments the film too. The main theme heard throughout Catfish is very simplistic but can make an audience feel a variety of feelings. One instance, the song could be used in a bittersweet situation and immediately in the next scene, you may be feeling a lump in your throat.
Clocking in at a fairly shorter duration, by today’s standards, Catfish is able to plant itself deep into your mind. I’m still thinking about the film; how it was edited and presented. How shook up I was exiting the theatre as if I woke up from a dream. How I wanted to feel happy for the characters presented but how heartbroken I was afterwards. I can’t even remember the last time a film has made me feel this many emotions all at once and still maintain to be a clever film in its technical and story aspects. Saying I loved this film is an understatement.