How has technology affected our relationships? What can we really know about another person online? These are issues addressed in Catfish, a movie (inaccurately promoted as a thriller) about virtual relationships and the real world.

Nev Schulman is a 24-year-old professional photographer living in NYC. His brother Ariel and roommate Henry Joost are shooting a documentary about Nev and an unusual fan: Abby, an eight-year-old girl living in Michigan who saw Nev's photos online and mails him painted versions of them. Nev and Abby correspond through Facebook, and soon Nev is gets to know the rest of Abby's family -- her mother Angela and her stepsister Megan -- through Facebook and phone calls. Nev and Megan even begin to have a romantic relationship.

Soon, though, Nev and his friends start finding lies being told by Megan and Angela (starting with a song Megan posts as hers that was actually taken off of YouTube). And so, on the way back from an assignment, Nev, Ariel and Henry decide, on the way home after a photo shoot, to make an unannounced visit to Abby's home to find out what is true.

Catfish (the title comes from what someone says near the end of the movie) is a reflection of our life in the age of technology. From the movie's starting point (Abby saw Nev's photos thanks to the Internet) to the guys getting around through Google Earth and their car's GPS, these people rely on their gadgets without even thinking about it. This would seem to make their lives easier -- they can "look" around the country without leaving their Manhattan apartment -- but it also makes deception quite simple.

Of course, no one is faultless here. During Nev and Megan's relationship Nev copies her picture and pastes it to his photo to show what they would look like "together" -- even though they never met.

For some reason, Catfish was promoted as a thriller, suggesting everything from Hitchcock to a horror movie. (The movie comes close to the latter comes close during a late-night visit to a house.) Trailers also suggest some dramatic surprise not to be revealed. None of that is the case. This is a simple drama, shot in documentary style, about some nice guys whose online friends lead to a real-world mystery.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

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