Catfish is a wonderful and surprising documentary that both celebrates and warns against our reliance on new technology to strike up friendships and pursue romance. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman's film unfolds not by design but by pure luck.
Ariel's brother Nev, a successful 24-year-old New York City photographer, receives a painting in the mail from an eight-year-old prodigy called Abby Pierce, who lives in Michigan. Nev is so impressed that he adds the girl as a friend on Facebook and the two begin conversing, with the blessing of Abby's mother, Angela. The photographer also befriends Abby's 19-year-old sister Meg, who is a talented singer-songwriter.
Romance unexpectedly blossoms, leading to an exhausting 371-mile road trip that propels the film in an unexpected and shocking new direction. Catfish beautifully captures the rollercoaster of emotions that engulfs someone conducting a romance over the internet and telephone. Nev is an engaging figure - vulnerable, sweet and funny - and we laugh with him as he shamefacedly reads out a steamy text conversation with Meg. The big twist is well concealed and it's a humdinger, but there are more surprises to come because just when we think we know where Joost and Schulman's film is heading, they stumble upon a deeply moving final act that leaves us close to tears.