‘The Imposter’ digs deep, dirty

The Imposter is a successful, suspenseful documentary. But it’s also much more than that.

Director Bart Layton presents a disturbing collision of two equally desperate parties: the eponymous “imposter” in Frederic Bourdin and the family of Nicholas Barclay, a missing boy through whom Bourdin gains American citizenship by posing as him.

A combination of archived home video, one-shot interviews, and gorgeous re-enactments make for a compelling mosaic of Bourdin, now a man, with whom we despise and sympathize in equal measure. Layton entertains a disturbing twist in the film’s third act, and the reveal is a clever misdirection, or more appropriate to the documentary genre, a withholding of information. Although Layton never delves deep enough to uncover the truth of any moral center, it’s a grungy descent into desperation. No sunshine or rainbows here.

– Available on Netflix Instant, iTunes, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, and Crackle