The Imposter

The Talented Mr. Frederic Bourdin


12 July 2012| No Comments on The Imposter     by Sean Chavel


It’s immediately heart-shattering as the rug gets pulled out from under you within five minutes. The Imposter is a re-enactment style documentary that connects the dots between an incident in 1994 in Texas and an incident in 1997 in Spain. Nicholas Barclay is a 13-year old Texas boy kidnapped and never seen again. Three years later he is found in Spain, except 23-year old vagabond Frederic Bourdin has assumed the missing boy’s identity. He is brought back to Texas by the Barclay family. Social workers in Spain were skeptical that he was the American boy, but shrugged and stamped their approval.

How could the Barclay family be fooled in believing that this was their son? Frederic dyed his hair, manipulated his posture and such. He assumed another life – it’s the first time he ever “belonged” to a family, the adult Frederic in retrospect explains.

But what sold the authorities, and the Barclays, was Frederic’s claim that he had been raped and tortured by a military outfit who used boys as sexual outlets for three long years. The details are horrific, exhaustive, and made-up as well. Frederic was able to convince an entire family, and authorities, into thinking he had lived through such unspeakable horrors. This supposedly explained how his entire personality had changed because of it. That is how Nicholas Barclay became a different person.

Not everybody bought it. Forensics in Texas, one mysterious cousin with something to hide, and a private investigator who took on the case out of his own special interest – the P.I. is first to decide to usurp the truth. Yet there is another layer of intrigue: Why was Nicholas’ mom Beverly and sister Carey so quick to believe on first appearances?

Several family members participate in a litany of interviews, and you also have FBI special agent Nancy Fisher admit she was fooled initially by her first interview with Frederic. But the star interviewee is Frederic himself, who is a full adult now living a normal life. He appears in command of his faculties and demonstrates articulate comprehension of events fifteen years earlier, and possibly inhibits shame. His apologies only extend so far.

Yet I wondered a little too regularly about the rape stories he made up when he was supposedly a young man. How come Frederic was able to so easily relay horrific imagery in these stories? Perhaps something happened to him before the days he had a family, before he was a vagabond/con artist. The truth behind that is one element never confessed for the cameras. The rest of the confessions, and twists of events, are jaw-dropping.

94 Minutes. Rated PG-13.


Film Cousins: “The Return of Martin Guerre” (1982); “The Thin Blue Line” (1988); “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999); “Catch Me if You Can” (2002).


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


There are No Comments about this post

Add Yours!

You must be logged in to post a comment.