Director: Tim Wardle
Release Date: June 29, 2018
We here at worthalook haven’t covered documentaries like we should. In the short two months we’ve been running we have only reviewed one (Minding the Gap). Yesterday when I went into my local video store, (Yes I still go to a brick-and-mortar video store to rent movies; they give out free beer on Tuesdays. It’s fucking awesome.) I was looking at the documentaries and saw the cover for Three Identical Strangers. Knowing absolutely nothing about it other than it showed up on a lot of year-end lists I checked it out.
Three Identical Strangers opens with the unbelievable story of Bobby Shafran arriving at community college in upstate New York in 1980. He is greeted with open arms – students saying to him “hey,” “welcome back,” “good to see you,” things like that. He was confused, but it all made sense when a student called him “Eddy.” The student said Bobby was identical to a guy who attended the college the previous semester. Bobby learned they had the same birthdays and were both adopted, so he reached out to Eddy and, it turns out, they’re twins.
The New York Post ran a story about the brothers who were separated at birth and how they found each other 20 years later. David Kellman saw the story and noticed the resemblance. Turns out, they’re actually triplets.
This happens rather quickly and, given the name Three Identical Strangers, you figure once he finds the first brother that they’re triplets and the third is coming. The movie’s first half hour is fun. It’s a nice story about how these three brothers found each other after 20 years having no idea they were out there. We find out that they’re very much alike. They all wrestled, all smoke the same cigarettes and shared a few other interesting similarities.
Thirty minutes or so in I’m thinking “This is a nice story but how is it going to fill a whole 90 minutes” and right then the twists start. We begin to hear more from the parents, who are angered that no one was told by the adoption agency that they were triplets. The agency separated three brothers at birth and robbed them of having each other growing up.
Director Tim Wardle tells this story by unwrapping the twists and turns in a gradual way that grabs your attention and holds you there. You begin to ask questions about this agency and its true intentions. Seemingly every 10 minutes something else is revealed that adds another round of questions. Your blood pressure spikes as the story slowly unveils the scope of what the agency has done. The Jewish adoption agency, Louise Wise Services, is the antagonist. Going deeper into the adoption agency’s true reasoning for splitting them up, you’re enraged knowing that a seemingly good cause had alternative motives that ruined people’s lives. They took a good cause and used people who had only the best intentions for their personal agendas.
The film addresses the nature vs. nurture debate on raising a child as it highlights the triplets’ similarities despite having never met each other. It also addresses mental health issues and the possibilities of those issues being hereditary. Despite the interesting inconclusive findings of these observations, the story is still a tragic one of siblings being separated on a scale that we’re never sure of because of the secretive nature of the agency and all parties involved.
Three Identical Strangers is emotional and terrifying. It starts out as a moving story about three brothers who find each other later in life. Then we see how the lies and never-ending questions about their childhood affected them and the other twins who were separated by this agency, whose reasoning was “it’s easier to place one child in a home than two.” Which was not the true reasoning. You ask how many others are still out there, separated at birth with no clue.
Normally we try to review only films that have recently been released but how moved I was after watching, we’re going to push this one despite being released in June of last year.