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Catfish (2010)

catfish movie poster

Catfish was the #1 trending subject on Twitter here in the UK earlier this week, and since a lot of people were talking about it, I thought I would wade in and offer up my opinion. Somewhere safe, like my own blog, where everybody knows your name and it isn’t a horrible name calling society like on the IMDb forums. But more importantly, I want to try and get some of your thoughts and feelings on the documentary.

See, this is not going to be a very conventional review. I’m not including a trailer, and I’m not going to talk very much about the movie in this area. I want to try and pique people’s interest who maybe haven’t seen or heard of Catfish yet, and then chat about it in the comments section with the people who have seen it (or don’t really care, and just want to know what the deal is!). So, spoiler free up here, but all kinds of spoilers and theories in the comments section below! If you want to avoid the secrets, don’t read the comments. Alright!?

Catfish film makers

Yaniv ‘Nev’ Schulman, Henry Joost, and Ariel Schulman

For those who haven’t heard of this title, Catfish is a 2010 American documentary directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (who have since gone on to direct Paranormal Activity 3 & 4). It’s about a New York photographer called Yaniv ‘Nev’ Schulman who enters into a Facebook correspondence with an 8 year-old painting prodigy from Michigan named Abby. Whilst this sounds creepy, it’s not that kind of film. Eventually, Nev becomes online friends with her entire family, including her mother Angela and her older sister Megan, with whom he shares email exchanges, photos and intimate phone conversations. Slowly, it becomes clear through a little sleuthing that something isn’t right.

catfish movie nev

Nev and one of the paintings

The trailer for this film will have you believe you are all set for something completely different to what you actually get. That’s why I haven’t included it. If you watch it, chances are you will be disappointed. I will give you a brief trailer description though, cue creepy music:

Through some detective work on YouTube and other various sites they are slowly realizing that something isn’t right about this situation. They get the bright idea to drive to Michigan to confront Abby, Megan and the rest of the family. After a long trip, the trio of film makers arrives at the barn by Megan’s house in the middle of the night. They peer inside the barn…and ….. 

That’s all your getting from me. Go in blind and enjoy the ride, that’s what I say! 🙂

Megan

Megan

There have been numerous discussions online as to whether Catfish is genuine, whether elements of the film have been embellished, or that it’s just been meticulously crafted. It helps (or hinders the conspiracy theories!) that Nev is a smiley, affable New Yorker, with a wannabe film maker for a brother, whose keen eye for a story ensures his camera is never switched off.

catfish movie

People have questioned why the film makers would begin obsessively documenting Nev’s online relationship so early on, and there are arguments that it is highly improbable that media-savvy professionals like the boys here would not use the Internet to research Megan and her family before meeting them. As a viewer though, that’s what causes the most fun. I like that Catfish is full of surprises. However much of it is real or not, it touches upon a very prominent aspect of most people’s lives today, the use of social networking sites. The online world can be a scary place. Have you ever started a relationship with anyone online? Just who exactly is on the other side of this virtual relationship?

Catfish raises so many questions, and I hope I haven’t answered (well, I obviously can’t answer them as I can only guess what I think happened, which I have below) or spoiled anything for those who are yet to see this. For everyone else, please leave me your thoughts in the comment section, I would love to hear your interpretations on what the hell went on in Catfish.

7 stars

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66 Comments

  1. Spoilers below – Do not read unless you want things ruined!! 🙂

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  2. LAST CHANCE!! SPOILERS BELOW!!!

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  3. Ok, so here are my thoughts. Whilst there is a part of me that wants to believe this all happened as it is shown in the movie, I don’t buy it. The best theory I read which confirmed my beliefs was that the ending was the first bit filmed, and then the boys filmed the rest afterwards. So all the build up etc after they knew what was going on.

    Its makes sense to me, and I just don’t buy it that it all went 100% as they want us to believe. Great watch either way 😛

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    • I agree man. There were too many coincidental filmings of very important events. The guy’s had to have totally lucked out every time to capture some of the things they did. That being said though, it was very well structured and makes a good (and important) social commentary.

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      • Good to hear!! 😉

        Yeah, thats it, for me they just got lucky A LOT!!! And now we know these guys can direct, and set stuff up after seeing them do Paranormal. BUT I dont want to do them a dis-service. I want this to be genuine, I really do. I just thing they embellished the truth ever so slightly 🙂

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  4. I didn’t give much though about its realness because the story itself caught me. Maybe they filmed the earlier parts only after everything happened and they decided to make a film about it so completed the beginning or I don”t know. This was such a brilliant idea and could have been done only by making it a documentary, it gave the story more depth and easier to relate to. Towards the end it all felt very real and sad, especially in the middle aged woman’s eyes, you could see she was so unhappy.

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    • haven’t seen your thought about it yet when I started writing, but at least now I know we are on the same boat:P

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      • Great minds and all that!! 🙂

        Yeah, they were very nice to her. She didnt look shocked enough for me, when they arrived. It was weird, and they were so nice about it. More so than I imagine I would of been……..

        It did all feel so real though, I agree! Thanks for the comment 😛

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        • I think I would have behaved the same as they did (nice and all) it’s not like anything I do would change the situation and I couldn’t help but feel pity for that woman. 2 years has passed since I saw it and the thing I remember is when the woman starts crying, although I remember the whole stay there was just a tiny bit weird, not like they didn’t realize sooner what is going on. But still the weirdest for me was Nev falling in love, I don’t believe in anyone saying I’m in love with someone I newer actually seen.

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        • Your a nicer person than me for sure! I would of been pissed after going all that way. Thats why it would make more sense just to film that bit. Maybe they cut out the parts with them swearing at her!

          But yeah, its hard to get mad when you see her so sad, and desperate, and caring for the disabled kids. Sweet really when you think about it. Lonely.

          He did fall in love very easily……surely they could of skyped? 🙂

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        • yeah I’m aware of the mediums and all, and this is a biased opinion because I surely couldn’t fall in love with someone I never actually seen, a couple of pictures wouldn’t help me. I couldn’t feel myself close to a person if I couldn’t watch/smell/touch that person, it wouldn’t feel real to me. The reason why I never had long distance relationships, or continued relationships after one of us moved, I just felt out of touch and the feelings faded. So for me that was the weirdest part because Nev seemed so in love.

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        • I’m with you, I would want skype as proof before I set off on a cross county expedition.

          He did seem embarrassed when reading out his texts, which again comes back to either him being a great actor, or genuine in his reaction. He did seem to really like her.

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        • it seemed genuine to me, a few pictures and he fell for her. yeah if u think bout it a simple webcan and they wouldn’t have had a story at all:))

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        • Thats why its hard to believe these clever guys didnt bother with anything like that for proof.

          Still, it was an enjoyable movie, and gets people thinking. That can only be a good thing right?! 🙂

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        • that is the definition of a good movie in my opinion:P

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        • Agreed 🙂

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  5. wordschat

     /  January 24, 2013

    Its been ages since I saw it. I bought the idea that the deception could occur but didn’t buy that this actually did occur. It was as you say too much for techsavy peoples like them. That people masquerade as others to lure them for sex or to kill themselves is sadly true. That would have been a useful investigation documentary instead of this concocted fact based or totally made up piece.

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    • I still don’t think they were good enough actors to fake the whole thing. I just believe a lot of it was exaggerated. But as you say, the morale of this is that stuff like this happens, all the time, and this is relatively happy in comparison.

      Cheers buddy 🙂

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  6. Like the guy above, I don’t really think about whether it was staged or not. For me, I think that maybe parts are embellished but I do buy the journey, and as a film viewer, I want to be made to buy the journey. If it is staged and all a well put together warning of relationships beginning on the internet then well done to them because there was better acting than in some proper films! I like Nev, I liked the relationship between him and the family.
    Catfish was a lot different to what I thought it was going to be, I went in blind expecting something scary/creepy.. just generally something completely different from the ending I was given. And the first time I watched Catfish I was a little bit disappointed with the ending and thought it seemed to take the pace off the ‘documentary’ and I felt there was something missing. However, saying this, the second time I watched Catfish I knew what was coming and when the big twist arrived, when Nev met the family, I thought it was really interesting. Real or not, it is a fantastic watch!

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    • Nicely put. I believed the whole journey, and couldnt wait to see how it played out. And yeah, the guys, especially Nev, surely they arent that good at acting.

      As I mentioned above, I just didn’t buy how calm she was with it all at the end after being rumbled. And they guys were so nice about it. Me, I would of been livid!!!

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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  7. My friend and I were both more than excited about seeing the film after watching the trailer, which implied (with music and editing) that a happy idea was going to go sour at some point, and the film would go from a happy documentary about a guy’s on-line dating experience to something dark and scary, leaving you with a sense of dread as to what was going to go wrong with it all.

    Needless to say (for those who’ve seen it), my friend and I were greatly disappointed by the outcome, my friend more so than me. I felt cheated by the trailer for its ‘lie’, but was fascinated by what actually transpired, when taken out of the context of the horror film that was never realized. This part was interesting and sad, and should have been a documentary on its own (and the first half should’ve continued on with what the trailer promised!).

    I’ve only seen the film once, and during that viewing I did question the authenticity of it all…mainly during the beginning, when I found it odd that the camera always seemed to be on, from the beginning, and for so many critical moments. I mean, my EYES aren’t open as much as that video camera was on!

    After leaving the theater, I never really gave the film any more thought. Looking back now, I remember waiting and waiting and WAITING for that horror aspect the trailer advertised to materialize, even right up to the end credits, when I STILL assumed something truly creepy and frightening was going to transpire. C’mon, trailers don’t lie, right?

    And Tyson, your take on it is something I’d never considered, but now it does make a lot of sense. And now, I feel even more cheated than before! Thanks a lot! 😉

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    • I never watched the trailer until after the film, as something I read somewhere said what I tried to convey here, and that the trailer is misleading. After watching, like you I would of been expecting a horror film. And that does it a dis-service really. Its great enough without that gimmick. I can see why you would be disappointed Todd.

      Apologies for making you feel cheated 😉 Just a guess of course, but in my mind at least it would be a plausible thing to do. BUT thats assuming Nev is a great actor, and who knows, its better to believe it really happened in the nice fashion it played out right!!

      Cheers Todd 🙂

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  8. I gotta admit I was intrigued by the trailer, but I don’t know about this twist thing. The more I read about it the less interested I am, but your review makes me think maybe it’s worth a rent.

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    • I would say its definitely worthy of a watch if you ever get chance. And its not a horror film like the trailer has people believe. Very much just a social study of everyday people who use things like facebook…..and lie…..sad and sweet really.

      Would love to know what you think of it if you do ever catch it Ruth! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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  9. I wrote on this film pretty extensively over on my site. So I am going to go ahead and be a butt and post that link here: http://johnlinkmovies.com/2011/09/22/johnlink-ranks-catfish/

    But the major point I made at the time was:
    At the very least, the film is manipulated to make this a more suspenseful film. I suspect that the guys smelled this being a ruse from the beginning and decided to film a documentary wherein they ‘stumbled’ upon the truth. If so, this is probably one of the most gross examples of exploitation in the history of cinema.

    The theme confronts the lack of trustworthiness of the internet which feeds into the narrative that this is probably a fake. But even so, it tells a compelling tale about how little we really know about the strangers we meet in cyberspace. That’s not a new theme, by any means, but it lands with an impact because of the way this story is told.

    And ultimately, that is all that really matters. These filmmakers had a point, and they wanted to get it across. If they used faux documentary means to do so, good for them. If it is all real and we are just too cynical, then good for them as well (and too bad for us). What matters is that the empathy and sympathy it evokes are real. A documentary sets out to give you the viewpoint of its filmmakers, to convince you of something. And whatever its techniques, CATFISH succeeds on that level.

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    • Ah right, I’ll let you post a link as it’s you! 😉

      You went to a lot of detail with your post! I like the thought that they guess it straight away, hence why they filmed it. It would make their actions seem more genuine, because in a way they still dont know fully what to expect.

      But yeah, it certainly convinced me and evoked some emotions. As it obviously has with some great comments here. So yeah, they succeeded, and have forged a great career from it. Seeing them on tv shows and stuff, swearing blind its all 100% legit, whilst I’ll refrain from a certain cyclist joke, they are very adamant its all real.

      Cheers John 🙂

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  10. theipc

     /  January 24, 2013

    I totally hated this movie and felt the entire was a big fake!!! BOOOOOOOOO on this movie!!!

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    • REALLY?? I liked it, so I’m not too surprised 😉

      So you thought it was just fake and staged right from the beginning? Fair enough 🙂

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      • theipc

         /  January 24, 2013

        Well – I should be honest – I missed abut the first ten minutes – did I miss the big set-up??

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        • No, not really any set up as such, just explains who the 8 year old girl is and how they ‘met’ and came into contact. Im guessing you didnt buy it at all then?

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        • theipc

           /  January 24, 2013

          Not one bit and that night when they are all filming in that hotel actually kind of pissed me off.

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        • When nev gets angry at being filmed all the time?

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        • theipc

           /  January 24, 2013

          It’s been awhile – I remember the text messages he was getting were so contrived and impossible – and I think he got mad – maybe…

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        • He spent some time reading out the messages him and the girl had been sending each other. There was another scene when he just got mad, that was in a hotel too.

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  11. This sounds totally intriguing! 🙂

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  12. Good review Tyson. I liked what the movie had to say about where we are going with our lives and our society, but now that they have the television show, it almost seems stupid and meaningless now. I don’t know if that’s how all with feel, but at the time of this movie coming out, it was really a nice, eye-opener to people out there.

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    • Thanks buddy.

      I wasnt aware of a tv show until after I started researching. Having never seen it or knowing what it is really, I cant comment on it. I think as a stand alone this documentary is definitely eye opening as you say. If the documentary, and even the tv show helps some naive people out there, then it must have some good value! Cheers for stopping by 🙂

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  13. I remember a lot of people talking about this when it came out but never bothered to see it, though I caught a few minutes of it on an airplane before. Nice review.

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  14. I wasn’t aware of this movie and I’m fascinated now so I’m skipping all the comments. But I’ve started online relationships before (one boyfriend and a couple of best friends) so yeah, I want to see this and find out what’s going on!

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    • Fair enough, wise choice!! 🙂

      You ever have any bad experiences or were they all who they said they were?

      Cheers Misty!

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      • Well, the boyfriend didn’t work out but we were together for 3 years. He was who he said he was but he certainly embellished some things about himself. And my best friend in Canada seems to be exactly who she says she is – we haven’t met but we Skype all the time so we have pretty regular face to face convos. 🙂

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        • 3 years is still pretty good! If the people in the movie did what you and your canadian friend do with Skype there would be no Catfish movie 🙂

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  15. I have not seen this yet but I fascinated with internet hoaxes and I have been known to spend a lot of time reading about them. Someone would have to be so crazypants to even do one of those hoaxes. And it seems like there are lots of crazy people online. Ironically I met my husband online on a message board…we were both who we claimed to be!

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  16. I did not believe I was watching a documentary , but I thought the acting by the lying mother was brilliant

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  17. I’ve read this is staged, and it probably is, but I still loved it. Very entertaining film.

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    • I think people have theories on all sorts of outcomes, but the only people who know are the 3 guys I guess. Fun to speculate as we all have been doing though!

      Cheers for stopping by Fernando 🙂

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  18. And now we have Manti Te’o, probably the greatest, craziest catfish story at the moment

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  19. I really loved this movie, but maybe it was because I didn’t know anything about it. II went in the theater thinking it was a horror film and it turned into something much more. It made my Top 10 for 2010.

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    • I was the same, and yet if I had seen the trailer I would have gone in expecting horror. Best way really, to know as little as possible.

      Cheers Mark 🙂

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  20. Ryan

     /  May 20, 2013

    Never saw a trailer for this one, just watched when it got to Redbox, ’cause I like documentaries, honestly, unless it’s just a bunch of political saber-waving. That being said-if, if, IF the events in this movie transpired exactly as we were shown and none of it was staged or re-created, this movie should have won the Oscar for best documentary. But, it wasn’t even nominated. Why? I’m betting it wasn’t even submitted for consideration, probably for fear that the veracity of the film would be called into question during the vetting process. That’s what seals the deal for me. Not that many docs get screentime outside of film festivals, and for one that got as much attention as this did, I would think it would at least get nominated unless….it was made up. Not embellished, full-on fabricated. But that’s just my opinion.

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    • I guess we will never know, but whilst I would love to believe it happened as they say, like you mention, a little digging from people in the know may have shone lights on this the makers would not like. 🙂

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  21. I like you was enthralled by the events that unfolded throughout Catfish. It was a truly captivating watch but with some post analysis I settled with the same view point as you. No way it wasn’t staged, the question is…does it matter?

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