WELL I’LL TELL YOU WHAT IT IS
I’d been eager to watch this film for a long time. It’s listed as a documentary film but I feel that it treads the line between exploitation and real-life drama. Can you call it real-life? All documentary films can be seen as exploitative and is not wholly factual as you’re seeing the subject matter through the eyes of the documentarian. But this movie has been criticized for being a fake documentary even though the filmmakers claim that it’s real. Whatever. I think that’s somewhat beside the point when watching it.
A young photographer, Yaniv (Nev) Schulman lives with his brother Ariel (Rel) and friend, Henry Joost. Later, Rel and Henry go on to direct Paranormal Activity 3 after receiving attention for this film. Abby Pierce, an 8-year old child prodigy artist in rural Ishpeming, Michigan, sends him a painting of one of his published photographs and they become friends on Facebook.
Nev then gets to know her entire family including: Angela the mother; Angela’s husband Vince; and Abby’s older half-sister Megan.
Megan is a veterinary technician, dancer and songwriter and she and Nev begin a long-distance relationship. All correspondence is conducted over the internet, phone calls and snail mail.
Suffice it to say that not all is what it seems. And Nev begins to get wind of the lies. Rel asks Nev to continue the relationship for the documentary and they eventually travel to Michigan to pay the family a surprise visit.
The greatest thing about this film is the PR they did for it, claiming that the ending is shocking. Unfortunately, we live in a generation where nothing really surprises me anymore and I kept waiting for that shock value that just never came. You know what? The PR people did their job and they did it well because you got me to see the movie.
However, if you are going to describe it as a “reality thriller” and you don’t deliver then that’s a problem. I guess I was expecting it to be more than what the ending actually was. I actually found myself getting bored halfway through the movie and constantly checking to see how much of the film was left. So let me just cut to the chase here. It’s about a middle-aged woman in the Midwest who was dissatisfied with her life and sought out a fantasy virtual life by creating multiple personalities online. What’s so shocking about that because it seems clear as day to me? It’s clear that this woman needs professional help and she’ll have to live with this film for the rest of her life and explain it to her children. And in that sense, yes I do feel she has been exploited and I feel bad for her. Rather than the film being unique and interesting, rather it was the great PR work that got me intrigued.