In 2007, twentysomething New York photographer Yaniv Schulman, the brother of one of Catfish's directors, started receiving painted copies of his work in the mail, apparently created by a young Michigan girl named Abby.
Schulman's brother Ariel and their friend Henry Joost decided – rather suspiciously, I think – to make a documentary about Schulman's budding friendship with this child prodigy, her unusually attractive mother Angela, and finally her sexy 19-year-old sister Megan, whom Schulman started romancing over the phone and on the Internet.
The film's marketing promises a great "shock", but if you have a brain in your head you might guess right away that this family Schulman is dealing with – but never meeting in person – might just be hiding something from him.
Fortunately, Catfish doesn't wait until the end to reveal its secrets; in fact, while its first act is so obviously set up for a twist that the film itself starts to look like a hoax, once Schulman and his pals begin figuring out what's going on, that's when the story really becomes intriguing – and convincingly real. (Some viewers may still doubt the film's authenticity, but I don't.)
Again, while our protagonists' discovery will only surprise the handful of naifs who never considered that anybody would be less than honest in their online persona, the film goes deep into answering the whys behind such deceit by spending time with a truly fascinating and sad character in smalltown Michigan, one of probably thousands of similar lost souls finding deluded pleasure in a world where, as long as you don't have to meet someone face to face, you can be whoever you want to be.