Three Identical Strangers is a new documentary about how three identical triplets became separated at birth and then were reunited 19 years later. But it’s more than that. With plenty of twists and turns in a movie where nothing ends up being what it seems, the Los Angeles Times describes a cinematic experience directed by Tim Wardle that “hides its most haunting truths in plain sight… Wardle whips the story along at breakneck speed, stoking our sympathy with the brothers’ mounting sense of outrage and betrayal. The ironies are mind-boggling.”
Little did Robert Shafran know that the day he set foot on the campus of Sullivan County College in upstate New York for the first time would be the day that began a journey that would change his life forever. He noticed right away that everyone was shockingly friendly. When they started calling him Eddy, he asked some questions and found out that he looked amazingly like another student, Eddy Galland. Eventually, arrangements were made for someone who knows Eddy to drive Robert to his home in Long Island to meet him. In the course of conversation, they discover they are actually brothers. The two brothers slowly discover how much alike they really are. Their mannerisms are nearly identical despite 19 years apart. When a photo of them is published in the New York Post, a woman sees it and calls her friend David Kellerman to tell him that about the two men who look exactly like him. And, you guessed it, David turns out to be their brother. The three young men are identical triplets adopted by three different families and bond right away.
Three Identical Strangers reminds of the media exposure that ensued. The triplets appeared on The Donahue Show and had a cameo in the 80s film Desperately Seeking Susan. They are celebrities. The public sees photos of the charming three out and about in magazines and tabloids. They make the talk show circuit where they answer every question about how alike they are. They fall in love, marry, and open a Soho restaurant called Triplets together.
Meanwhile, journalist Lawrence Wright is in Austin, Texas working on an article about twins for The New Yorker when he runs across the triplets’ story. Something about it triggers his curiosity, which prompts him to get on the phone and make some phone calls. And then everything changes. As Rolling Stone says, the story takes “a sharp left turn, or perhaps a full-speed plummet off a previously unnoticed, completely uncharted cliff.” Regarding what happens next, they say the following.
“This is where the extraordinary Three Identical Strangers stops being merely a human-interest news segment writ large and starts becoming something darker, more tragic – and way, way more interesting. Some new talking heads enter the scene. You become acutely aware of who has not been weighing in on the events on-camera. The notion of ethics, the legacy of genetics and the nature-versus-nurture argument all come into play, as does a sense that some sort of ancient curse has been put on these three men.”
NPR says this.
“From the moment they were born, the film shows, the adoptive families fell victim to casual abuses of power, from the adoption agency that concealed their biological parentage and their triplet status, to the scientists who used them as guinea pigs for a study of nature versus nurture that was never published, to the media that trapped them inside a fairy tale they could never live up to.”
It’s a case of truth being stranger than fiction, an emotional and heartbreaking rollercoaster that sees the boys and their adoptive families experience a whole spectrum of emotion.
Three Identical Strangers is rated PG-13 for “some mature thematic material” and runs an hour and 36 minutes.