Three Identical Strangers - SIFF 2018

Michael Ward on Saturday, May 26

Three Identical Strangers.jpg

★★★

Uncovering one remarkable story leads to another level of shock and awe, with Tim Wardle's mesmerizing new documentary Three Identical Strangers.

There is a sordid and rather ominous tone to the film, which creeps in like a storm cloud, but initially, we are blown away simply trying to wrap our minds around how this story is even possible.

At a community college in 1980, 19-year-old Bobby Shafran is introduced to 19-year-old Eddie Galland in New York City. Not only do they look identical to one another in virtually every way, they share the same birthday, and learn that each were adopted.

As the brothers piece together their connections, they discover another "lookalike" named David Kellman, cementing the reality that the boys were triplets, separated and adopted at birth into three different homes, all remarkably within a 100 mile radius of one another.

The brothers' story became a national phenomenon, and celebrity finds the boys in no time at all. Understandably, they become intoxicated by the fame and embrace the attention. They become fixtures at Studio 54, appear on "Donahue", have movie cameos, and show up on various news programs and morning shows. Later, in their 20s, they open a restaurant and when the cameras stop coming around, the boys settle into being community celebrities, husbands, fathers, and brothers.

If that was the story, that would be enough. However, Bobby, Eddie, and David's story continues unwinding, as more and more questions surround their adoption and upbringing. Without spoiling the film, and with some caution to avoid digging around on the internet if you plan on seeing the movie, Three Identical Strangers takes a turn that may immediately compel you to raise your hand and ask a litany of questions. 

And then it just keeps going.

What the boys experience together and apart is unfathomable, and as someone who had a peripheral experience with siblings adopted away from one another under questionable circumstances, elements of the film shook me deeply. 

However, there's further developments of their story that you never see coming, and the movie struggles to weave what ultimately becomes a suspense/thriller-movie style development effectively into the film's overall themes of trust, brotherhood, and family connections.

At the end, Three Identical Strangers is a movie that gets your blood boiling and makes you want to continue the conversation about everything you have just witnessed. You want to know more, understand details, question the truth behind what we have been told, all while feeling incredible empathy and compassion for the ordeal these three boys never asked for, but have dealt with for all their lives.

Even if the two halves of the film don't entirely come together cohesively, including a rather abrupt ending that leaves you scratching your head a bit, Three Identical Strangers still finds a way to do what great documentaries often do. They transport us into a story different from our own, informing us, shedding a light on something remarkable, and allowing us to contemplate our life experiences next to someone else.

Documentary Featuring: Bobby Shafran, David Kellman.
Director: Tim Wardle
Running Time: 96 MInutes


SIFF SHOWTIMES:
May 22 | SIFF Egyptian | 7:00 PM
May 23 | SIFF Cinema Uptown | 4:30 PM