While the film shows no actual fish, “Catfish” is one fishy movie. It asserts itself to be one-hundred-percent true documentary, but there are times when you doubt its authenticity. Its premise involves an affable photographer named Nev. As documented by his two camera-ready roomies, we see him expound on his unlikely correspondence with a child painter named Abby.

The girl, miles away in Michigan, has seen one of Nev’s published photographs. She contacts him, expresses her admiration, and sends him her paintings inspired by his work. Touched to have a fan, Nev communicates with Abby mostly through cyber. Soon, in Facebook, he also befriends her appreciative mother Angela and hot half-sister Megan. He becomes intimate with the family as the correspondence grows through text messages, phone calls, and songs. Then one day, Nev decides to surprise them by driving to Michigan. And the surprise! – the supriser becomes the surpisee. The movie depends on this revelation and if you have not watched it yet and plans to, I warn you that the following might splash some spoilers.

I admit I had an inkling where the movie was heading. At the time, I had no idea this was a documentary. I thought the filmmakers have seen the doc “My Kid Could Paint That” (about a so-called child prodigy) and read the novel “The Night Listener” (about a man’s strange correspondence with a boy). I surmised they developed a story of the same breed and for budget’s sake, they approached it pseudo-docu a la “Cloverfield.” I was convinced it was all fabricated. When Nev arrives in Michigan however, the movie unhinges itself and opens a new realm of reality. I was not surprised at the not-all-what-it-seems discovery but its unreal honest portrayal did.

What Nev uncovers is indeed startling and his story can simply be viewed as a cautionary tale. In this social network age, the moral is — don’t judge a Facebook by its profile pic. But if we really take this to heart, we must go beyond this superficial lesson.

“Catfish,” is, at its core, a human story. We are a species with a natural tendency for connection. It’s such a simple goal and yet, sometimes, highly evolved as we are, we can be complex in our attempt. An imaginative character appears on the film and he/she demonstrates that the human mind can be an unspeakable wonder.

Yes, the film is entertainingly awkward and creepy. There are priceless scenes of cloud-nine expectations, bare-naked deceptions, and clumsy plummet of fancy. The movie can spark conversations about the current state of society plugged in on the Internet. But I think as high-tech our communication has become, it is not as fascinating as the ancient human network, wired with emotions, ideas, and dreams.

I don’t want to dwell on whether the documentary is purely authentic. Some of the presented facts are believable, some are dubious. Maybe some scenes were probably manipulated or recreated. And I just went with it. I am just grateful it pushed the right buttons and spun the right cogs in my mind. It mechanically made me feel like a human.

Grade: B+

Nev Schulman
Ariel Schulman
Henry Joost
Angela Pierce
Vince Pierce
Abby Pierce
Directed by
Henry Joost
Ariel Schulman
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references