Director: Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost
Released: September 17, 2010
It's difficult to discuss this documentary without giving away major plot points, so I will warn you when I'm about to start talking about spoilers just in case you haven't seen this movie/ don't know the big twists and want to keep it that way.
Ariel Shulman and Henry Joost are young directors in their mid-20s who live in Manhattan and document everything. It doesn't matter how mundane it is - they find everything fascinating to film. Ariel's brother, Nev, is a photographer and he discovers that an eight-year-old girl from Michigan named Abby has been transforming his photographs into pictures she's drawn. He thinks they're really good and she's quite talented for someone so young, so he e-mails her to compliment her and say how he really likes the drawings and sends her more of his photos for her to draw. He soon develops an online correspondence with Abby (and it's not as creepy as you might think) and becomes Facebook friends with her mom, her half-sister Megan, and a bunch of Megan's friends.
Megan is a few years younger than Nev and she's very pretty. Of course he develops a crush on her and Nev isn't bad-looking so there's an instant attraction. They start flirting with each other over Facebook and texts and he even talks to her on the phone a few times. He also talks to the mother who tells him that Abby's art has been in shows and the most one has ever sold for was $7,000.
He and the filmmakers start to get suspicious because there are a few things that just don't add up. For instance, he googles Abby's name and the town she lives in, but there's nothing about her even though she should be somewhat of a local celebrity for being so young and having art exhibitions. When they're in Vail, Colorado to do some work, they decide since they're "so close" to Michigan to drive to the family's house and see what's going on. Well, they fly to Chicago first, then drive up to the northern peninsula.
Okay, so for the rest of this review I will be giving away major key plots, so here is your **** SPOILER WARNING *****
Do not read any further if you don't want to know the big reveal...
...which isn't really that big of a reveal because it's kind of obvious when we learn it: Megan does not exist - it was the married forty-something year old mother who was posing as this young, attractive girl and basically having an affair with Nev online. While she does have an older daughter named Megan (who sounded like they were estranged probably because this woman is bat**** crazy!), the girl she had posted photos of on Facebook was just some random model she found online. And it was pretty obvious she was a model because while there were a few candid shots, a lot of the photos of her were obviously shot by a professional.
While I could see that reveal coming a mile away, it didn't occur to me that the mother was the real artist of all those drawings. Abby does exist, but she is not the artist in the family. The mother was pretending that her young daughter was painting all those because they were better received by a young girl than by a grown woman. The paintings would have been pretty impressive by an eight-year-old, but looked juvenile by anyone over the age of 12.
While she still does try to deceive them by saying that Megan isn't home, then later texting Nev as Megan saying she's in rehab because she all of a sudden out of the blue became an alcoholic, she eventually comes clean and admits what she did. And not only did she create "Megan", but she created the fifteen friends Megan had on Facebook and was managing all of them. Clearly this woman has some mental problems and needs help!