To prepare for this review, click the link for the trailer from the film and watch it to give yourself a good idea of some of the reference points contained herein.
Forget any notion of this film as some great Hitchcockian mystery. It's not. One can garner from the trailer that something is not as expected when Nev goes to meet Megan, and using taglines relating this to some great mystery of Hitchcock-level proportions are simply not justifiable. It is also not some grand thriller set amid the stage of "real life"- what Catfish "is" is the real story of Yaniv Schulman and his friendship with a young girl named Abby, which culminates in a surprising yet not-surprising ending that is incredibly moving, and above all else incredibly human. The trailers and reviews which claim the film to be some grand complex mystery or some intense edge-of-your-seat thriller are missing the human element that really makes this film what it is.
The filmmakers, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, began documenting the friendship that Nev has with Abby in 2007. From there Nev begins to befriend other members of Abby's family, including her mother and her sister, Megan. Nev enters into something of an unofficial relationship with Megan and, after going to Colorado to make a film about dancing, the three decide to take a trip to Megan's farm in Michigan so she and Nev can meet for the first time.
Ideally, one is reading this review after seeing the film, but if one has read this or any review, then they are already anticipating some grandiose ending that flips reality on its head or completely alters life as we know it. These comparisons are not entirely untrue, but they do more to hurt the film than they do to help it, as they exaggerate the point that the final forty minutes of the film ultimately make.
Ultimately, the point is the humanity within all of us, what lengths we will go to in order to achieve the happiness we seek, and what lengths we will go to in order to feel what it is that we most want to feel in our lives. It is intriguing and it is completely engrossing, and for a short while there is this great anticipation that builds up and up as we wait for Nev and Megan to finally meet to see if those sparks really fly. Upon reaching that point, there is no more anticipation- it is as if there never was. It is hard to realize that the beginning and ending of Catfish are really the same movie, and if not for the enduring presence of Nev and the two filmmakers, they really might not be. Things are not always what they appear to be, and sometimes the road of life leads one in a direction they never thought possible. It is how we react to these situations- indeed, how we live them day to day- that defines us.
Don't go to Catfish expecting to see some expertly-crafted thriller or mystery story. Go expecting to see real people in real situations that lead them to unexpected places. Along the way they learn something about themselves in a way they likely never anticipated- and when one leaves the theater, they may walk away with the same thing.
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