Catfish presents both its plot and it context with the same whole-truth-and-nothing-but-truth assuredness as any another casually self-righteousness documentary, a genre which as of late is more sanctimonious than truthful. Depending on your expectations of the film you may see it as such and a bit more, perhaps as a complete fabrication as some have come to criticize it as; contrarily, you might choose to believe in the wide-eyed innocence of the narrative. Whether or not the realities of the story are what they appear to be, once you manage to be either romanced by it or rather suspend your disbelief it becomes an altogether wistful revelation about interpersonal relationships and the incredible impact that the ever-burgeoning universe of technology and by default social networking has had on human connectivity, for better and for worse.
Nev Schulman, Nev’s brother Ariel Schulman, and friend Henry Joost work together in Manhattan videoing and photographing dancers. After Nev receives a rather remarkable painting of one of his photographs that eight year-old Abby created from seeing the original in a newspaper, Nev’s curiosity as to whether this girl is a savant or a charlatan leads him to begin a correspondence with Abby’s mother Angela, then the rest of Abby’s family, and eventually Abby’s older sister Megan. Pretty soon Nev’s online relationship with Megan begins to get serious and sooner than later Nev has fallen for this beautiful woman he’s never seen in person. Suspicions are greatly stirred though as Nev tries for a more serious relationship, eventually inspiring him to visit Megan’s Michigan home unannounced in order to find the answers to all of his burning questions…which he does.
Catfish is one of those zeitgeist films that, if you’re concerned with keeping an eye on the constantly evolving twenty-first century cultural climate, you should see with or without faith in its credibility. In a world that places so much emphasis on truth and realism combined with society’s childlike willingness to make the greatest of intellectual and logical leaps for the sake of easy belief, this film is a striking if haphazard look at how now more than ever the naïve among us are so easily manipulated. Not only do we buy personally untested products off of infomercials and jump to take sided of whatever sociopolitical drama because of the news networks we watch but now indulge in even the most intimate relationships through cyberspace, in some amazing instances even getting engaged without ever having spoken a single word. Having spawned a rather successful and thoroughly engaging show of the same name on MTV as well as bringing about a rather apt and evermore pertinent catchphrase, Catfish is not only a taught and often lovely portrait the modern human being and the issues he confronts with the rapidly developing environment but also making contemporary cultural themes of adaptability and cyber ethics into a easily accessible and sublimely watchable albeit frustratingly twisted movie.