The explosion of social networking sites in recent years has created fodder for issues such as privacy, and has given us a plethora of entertaining stories in the process. The documentary “Catfish” tells us one such story that can serve as entertainment, a sort of sociological study of human habits and the internet, and in many ways, a warning. Aside from the subject matter of the film, the people involved in the story are fascinating and true to life in ways that most of us in the modern world of technology can relate to.
There are millions upon millions of stories about the internet and social networking mishaps and miracles, but what makes this documentary worthwhile is the elaborate tale that unfolds as it progresses. The story starts off with Nev, a young photographer begrudgingly being taped with a handheld camera and talking about his newfound friend on Facebook- 8 year old Abbey. Abbey is an adorable girl, who paints with flair and skill well beyond her years, and who finds Nev through facebook, asking if she could paint some of the photographs he takes of dancers.
Nev begins to form a relationship via the internet, texts and the phone with Abbey’s entire family, and a romantic relationship with her sister Megan. The beginning of the film reads like the story of any typical young guy who forms or rekindles a relationship through the modern ways we use. The camera work is shaky handheld, and the feel is almost like a home video. Nev and his filmmaker friends, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, are comfortable and fun in the way they chat with Nev about his Facebook exploits, but it seems to be about nothing more than an interesting story about two talented artists connecting through the internet.
What “Catfish” morphs into a quarter of the way through the film, is a much more intriguing tale of the twists and turns that socializing through the internet can bring on. As Nev and his friends journey to rural Michigan to visit Abbey, love-interest Megan and the rest of her family, they come across surprises and shocking reveals. As is often with the internet, things aren’t always what they seem. The uncomfortable situation that Nev finds himself in initially, becomes trumped later from other overarching human factors which become involved in the story.
Although documentaries are known for revealing the truth as it lies in a lot of instances, “Catfish” brings us a truth which shifts and changes throughout the story. In the end, there is a level of appreciation of the complications of human nature and the need for social contact that emerges, as we try and navigate this very new and quickly changing technology.