James Reviews Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s Catfish [Theatrical Review]

A film that carefully balances the line between reality and fantasy, Catfish is a revelation that seems so simple on paper but when seeing it on the big screen, it is so much more than you could have imagined. And how does one review a documentary that works wonderfully by the simple fact if you don’t know anything about the film whatsoever? Very carefully and with lots of sidestepping of the actual facts.

[Minor spoilers ahead for Catfish.]

Catfish is a documentary that was accidentally started due to random circumstances that sometimes one can’t control. Nev, our central person in front of the camera, is being filmed by his office mates Henry and Ariel. Ariel is also Nev’s brother, so right away it makes it a tricky situation. Are we seeing everything we’re meant to see? Is he swaying us, the viewer in the right direction? These are all questions (with many more to be asked throughout the film’s 94 minute run time) that one will ask while watching this film and that’s what makes it such an entertaining and scary piece of cinema.

Nev is a photographer who recently received some paintings of his photos in the mail from an 8 year old girl Abby from halfway across the country, starts corresponding online with Abby and her family and strikes up a potential love interest in Abby’s older half sister Megan. Sounds like a simple film about love found on the internet. Nothing special and wouldn’t make for a very interesting documentary but that’s only a tip of the iceberg. There’s a particular moment in the film that questions are raised and instead of calling the whole thing off, Nev, Ariel and Henry decide to get to the bottom of everything and meet Megan. And what proceeds is something I did not have an inkling of a clue that would occur.

But this is a film that you don’t want to give too much away. It’s a comedy, a mystery, a horror, a romance and a statement on perception, all rolled into one and that’s why a film like this ultimately works. And works well, I might add. This is all comes down to our protagonist of sorts, Nev. He exudes this charm that one can’t just act out. We are seeing his ups and downs throughout this film and can relate to how he feels. It makes sense that Ariel doesn’t want to take the camera off his brother because he and Henry knows something special is coming from all of this.

Ultimately a lot of you are going to see a trailer (I went in just knowing the film’s title and that it had something to do with the internet), a 2 minute clip somewhere or might even have everything spoiled. Does that ruin the film? Not necessarily but it’s one of those few films that triumphs completely going in with a clear mind and no knowledge whatsoever of the film itself. So how can you trust this review and the way I’ve attempted to skate around the film’s plot? You’re just going to have to trust me and ultimately trust is a very important aspect of this film.



Catfish is opening September 17th in Los Angeles, New York, Austin and San Francisco. Not opening in your city? REQUEST IT NOW! By making a request, you can help this critically-acclaimed film get released in a theater near you.

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3 Comments

  • I did my best to only skim your piece as I am watching Catfish tonight! I did like the parts I read and am very excited about the film that seems to becoming an Internet sensation. Living in Toronto during TIFF, I can say that Catfish is a word on many people’s mouths! Thanks James!

  • I didn’t want to give anything away. It’s so hard when it comes to a film like this, so how does a review do it justice? And David, even the meaning of the name Catfish would give away too much! So Jake, have fun watching it and let me know what you think of it.

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