Three Identical Strangers (2018) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
86 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
9/10
Brilliant - proof positive of that old adage that real life is stranger than fiction
michaeljtrubic27 April 2018
Incredible well constructed and very well written, beautifully paced and staged. Honest heart moving testimonials underlined with stunning analysis and shocking revelations.

One of those documentaries that very carefully balances the emotional temperatures of the subjects discussed.

Very honest directing and as perfect an editing job as I can imagine.

These guys are at the top or their profession.

Thank you both the director and editor for coming to Hot Docs 2018
59 out of 78 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
So Many Questions
boblipton1 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
It begins in 1980, when a new student at an upstate college is greeted by returning students. How was your summer? Good to see you! He thinks it's weird until one guy stares at him. "Were you adopted? What's your birthday?" It turns out he has an unknown identical twin. When the story hits the newspaper another one pops up. They bond. Everything is wonderful, except that each set of parents is outraged. Why weren't they told? They would have adopted all three!

At this point I was starting to lose interest, as it looked like it was turning into a story about lawsuits and people declaring what they would have done versus a well-meaning charity's understandable policy -- people may want to adopt a baby, but who needs the tsuris and expense of three? However, the story took a turn with a interview with an investigative reporter and a report of identical twins being deliberately separated for cold-blooded study... and by the end the trail had led to a powerful Jewish charity and an archive in Yale that's sealed for almost half a century more.

I'm a great fan of the ability of movies to tell a story, but I have rarely seen a documentary that told such a heart-breaking and disturbing factual story. I thought myself inured to the cruelty of people, but I left the theater asking how could these people, of all people, have thought to have done these things? It's also an investigation into the character of three people, the question of nature versus nurture, and the issue of free will. Quite simply, it's one of the best documentaries I have ever seen.
52 out of 71 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Interesting and reasonably well-made, but morally questionable in how it presents some of the material
Bertaut11 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
What is the primary factor in making us who we are? Were the truly great figures of pure evil - Elizabeth Báthory, Adolf Hitler, Harold Shipman, Peter Scully, Adam Sandler - always destined to become who they became, or are there to be found moments and influences in their environment which turned them into the monsters with whom we're familiar? Is our destiny genetically encoded at the moment of our conception? In short, it's the age-old question of nature vs. nurture; does biological determinism supersede free will? Focused on precisely these questions, twin studies involve researching twins to so as to compare and contrast the importance of genetic factors against environmental factors. When most people hear the term "twin studies", they probably think of Josef Mengele's sickening experiments in Auschwitz; however, these experiments were inhuman and not even remotely typical of scientifically approved twin studies, which are an accepted, if somewhat controversial, attempt to determine the etiology of differential psychologies in individuals who are genetically similar. And these are the murky waters charted by director Tim Wardle's Three Identical Strangers. Covering some of the same ground as Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein's book, Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited (2007), and Lori Shinseki's documentary The Twinning Reaction (2017), the film presents a bizarre stranger-than-fiction story, which begins as a light-hearted human-interest story before taking several darker turns. However, for me, although the fascinating central story is undoubtedly gripping, there are just too many egregious problems in the telling, including an overreliance on plot twists, which often forces the filmmakers to manipulate the material beyond what you would expect normal of a documentary; a concomitant excess of distasteful sensationalism; a dearth of contextualising scientific information; overly simplistic ethical, moral, philosophical, and esoteric conclusions; and stylistic drabness.

The film tells the story of Bobby Shafran, Eddy Gallan, and David Kellman, three young men in New York, who, through luck and coincidence learn they are triplets who had been separated as babies. Upon meeting, the quickly bond, move into an apartment together, and eventually open a restaurant in New York, Triplets Roumanian Steak House. Becoming minor celebrities, they appear on talk shows across the country and have a cameo in Desperately Seeking Susan (1985). However, they and their families are puzzled as to why they had been separated, and why their adoptive parents had not been told they were triplets. Was it a coincidence that Bobby had been placed with an affluent family, Eddy with a middle-class family, and David with a blue-collar family? Did the regular aptitude and psychological tests they received as children, part of what their parents were told was a "routine childhood-development study", have anything to do with their separation? As they begin to investigate, they soon stumble upon a series of shocking secrets that would change their lives, and the lives of many others, forever.

Three Identical Strangers starts out as jaunty as you could possibly imagine - Bobby heading off to college as "Since You Been Gone" plays on the radio. Within the first half-hour, the film also features cheerful montages cut to "Walking on Sunshine" and "Kids in America". Ominous this most certainly isn't. Indeed, so laidback are these early scenes that the whole thing could easily be the opening episode of a sitcom about three likeable guys accidentally learning they're brothers and going on a madcap adventure together. However, as thing progress, events take several darker turns.

The film has two major themes; morality/ethics and nature vs. nurture. In terms of morality, Wardle has referred to the scientists behind splitting the triplets up as succumbing to "noble cause corruption", arguing that they probably set out to accomplish something laudable, but were not above using unethical means to do so. It does, however, seem strange that when examining the morality of what was done to the brothers, Wardle makes no mention of David Reimer, a male who was reassigned as a girl in 1965 when he was only a few months old and raised female, based upon dishonest advice given to his parents by psychologist John Money, who was attempting to prove that gender identity is learned. As there are a lot of parallels between the brothers' stories and Reimer's, and between Neubauer and Money, including a reference or two would have helped contextualise things.

As to the question of nature vs. nurture, initially, events seem to point very much to nature - the brothers all smoked the same brand of cigarettes; they had all been amateur wrestlers; they had the same taste in women; they had similar speech patterns. The media at the time ate this up, with their appearances on talk shows designed to leave the audience stunned at their similarities. However, as the documentary goes on, the argument shifts, with the brothers themselves admitting they emphasised their similarities at the time, and the media was more than happy to ignore any differences, leading to what was apparently a clear win for biological determinism. As time went on, their differences began coming to the surface, and ultimately, the documentary very much argues in favour of nurture.

However, how it goes about establishing this argument is extremely questionable, with Wardle sliding more and more into sensationalism. So intent is he on controlling our perceptions that he leaves out a massive piece of information until such time as he deems it pertinent to reveal, and when he does so, he explicitly tells us what to think about it, pushing us to one specific response, when the event cries out for a more ambiguous presentation. It's difficult to go into any of this without straying into spoilers, so consider the rest of this paragraph a spoiler. Essentially, Wardle paints the suicide of one of the brothers as unquestionably the result of his adopted father's harsh disciplinarian parenting, a father who is still alive, and who appears in the film. Wardle and editor Michael Harte do this by cutting from a clip of that father wondering if he had a role in the suicide to one of the other brothers basically saying, to paraphrase, "I'm still alive because my parents weren't as strict as his." Blaming his death entirely on parenting in this manner is facile, grossly overly simplistic, and offensive. In fact, the way Wardle handles the suicide in general is deplorable, teasing it and teasing it, before gleefully revealing it for maximum tabloid-esque shock value. The sense of Wardle manipulating the material isn't helped by the fact that the absence of the third brother from the talking head interviews tips off the audience from the get-go as to where the story is heading. Why not just state it right up front, cutting back on the silly twist element of the narrative? It's not like people would get up and walk out upon seeing a "spoiler" like that at the outset - this is a documentary, not an M. Night Shyamalan film.

There are other problems, however. Aesthetically, the documentary is drab and dull, almost lifeless. With nothing cinematic about it whatsoever, it could easily be a report from a TV news magazine show, designed for maximum exposure rather than artistic inventiveness. The recreations are bland, and the talking head interviews are flat. Additionally, twin studies are a recognised and accepted scientific practice, but Wardle is so intent on making sure we are appalled at what happened to the brothers that he provides almost no context whatsoever. If he had spent less time trying to steer the viewers' emotions and more in providing a broader theoretical framework, the film would have worked much better, allowing the audience to find their own position in relation to what was done rather than simply following the director's lead. He also ignores a great deal of potentially interesting material. For example, why did their restaurant fail? According to the film, it was because of "different work styles". Which means absolutely nothing. Why does he not go into this a little? In fact, we never really get any sense of what the brothers' day-to-day life was like after they found each other. When they moved in together, how did that feel, for example? It's as if he doesn't want to dig too deep into anything just in case he finds something that might not fit into the grand narrative he's constructing.

The story of Three Identical Strangers poses fascinating questions about nature vs. nurture and the morality of certain types of research, but the film is so intent on the "nurture" answer that Wardle's subjective opinion comes across far more than it ought. More interested in driving home the shock value of some of the events than providing a penetrating documentary about free will vs biological determinism, there is little here that a reader wouldn't be able to find on Google. Given the outrageousness of the material, that Wardle has made such a conventional film is disappointing. It's an interesting enough piece, but that's more to do with the fascinating subject than the presentation, with the whole thing feeling a little too much like a Wikipedia entry.
35 out of 47 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Three Identical Strangers (2018)
rockman1821 July 2018
Normally, I'm not super into documentaries unless the subject matter is something I have a heightened interest in. I watched Won't You Be My Neighbor? earlier this year and thought it was actually excellent. So was hoping for a similar type of reaction with Three Identical Strangers. The trailer did a job of garnering interest because it seemed like a rather incredible set of circumstances. Overall, this documentary absolutely delivers, and is surprisingly quite dark.

The film is about the real life events of three men finding each other and realizing that they are in fact identical triplets. What's more crazy, is the fact that each of them have the same mannerisms and many of the same tastes in everything. Of course, questions arose as to why the triplets were separated at birth and not adopted together. The dark secrets of the adoption center are revealed in this documentary and questions arise as to the ethical nature as to what happened to these triplets.

From beginning to closing credits, this is an enthralling story. I have never even heard about this case, despite the brothers being located in New York. Its super hard to talk about the film without the twist that comes halfway through the film. It actually is crazy and makes you consider how dark and twisted human nature can be when they feel their actions is considered important and necessary. Its super hard not to talk about it, all I can say is you need to see this film.

Its a film about an event that is extremely joyous in the beginning. But as the film goes on you realize that the lives of these separated triplets is marred by tragedy and controversy. Its a documentary that will get you to think and wonder and talk. Its an important film for its social context and its psychology. There are some good stuff out this summer and this is something I hope people see.

7.5/10
39 out of 53 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An emotional roller-coaster with some questions left lingering
gortx13 July 2018
Stories about Twins (and other pairs of siblings) separated at birth aren't all that uncommon - but, triplets? Director Tim Wardle takes that rare occurrence and runs with it in the breathless and highly entertaining first section of his Documentary THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS. Wardle also cleverly edits his footage (including the interviews) in order to preserve as many surprises about the secrets and lies to come later in the movie. Some might argue that Wardle's technique is a bit of cheat, but, for those who enter without knowing the full story it enhances the viewing, even if it does cause some issues later on.

The story is told quite sequentially, and, again, that is in service of providing more drama as the Doc unfolds. Because the events go back to the 60s, many of the participants aren't around any longer to speak for themselves. Still, Wardle and his team managed to assemble a good cross-section of survivors to go on the record. Because the story was such a cause celebre in the early 80s (and in the NYC area to boot) we are also able to see a decent amount of historical footage of the triplets and their rise to fame including trips to the Today show, Donahue and a brief cameo in Susan Seidelman's DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN (supposedly at the behest of star Madonna). Some fairly minor dramatic re-enactments are also employed, and aren't distracting (Wardle also maintains the proper aspect ratio in much of the vintage footage - to his credit).

As the true tale turns darker, a few issues with the filmmaking arrive. I won't delve into spoilers (I avoided them myself in order for the Doc to have maximum impact), but, the old Nurture vs. Nature debate becomes a key point of contention - as it does with all of these 'separated at birth' cases. Because of the way Wardle structures his editing, we mostly get the 'Nature' perspective until very late in the process. Further, a major cache of evidence is dropped in at the very last moment, and isn't sufficiently analyzed. It's understood that after five years in the making, Wardle, Raw, Neon and other production entities wanted to get their movie done and released, but one can't help but feel the editing was wrapped up in order to get a prized Sundance Film Festival spot. Wardle also includes a couple of curious montages repeating what we've seen earlier as if he had an eye on TV showings (CNN is set to show it). But, these problems pale compared to Wardle's casting a light on some highly unethical behavior that effected the triplets' lives.

These relatively minor issues aside, THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS again shows why there is a bit of Documentary boom going on. In a cinema dominated by Superhero and Animated flicks, there is a yearning among some adults for movies of substance and reality. STRANGERS is a true emotional roller-coaster.
18 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
A Must See
khakers15 July 2018
Enthraling, capitvating. I drove over an hour to see this movie, yet did not expect the twists and turns. These boys grab your heart and dont let go. I would read the book if they wrote one, which would be great because the movie does leave you wanting to know more.
20 out of 30 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
An Amazing Story, The Documentary A Little Shaky And Manipulative
Fiahm30 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The top reviews here give a good report on what is moving, exciting and thought-provoking about this documentary, so I will instead briefly focus on some of the shortcomings.

The set-up of the tale is very good, and the excitement of the brothers discovering each of them exists is most compelling, but once they introduce the idea that something more is going on, there's a feeling that they are inflating with movie techniques a story that is not as shocking or sinister or conspiratorial as they are hoping to make it appear. It's clear they are trying for a similar rug-pull effect as used in 'The Jinx' and other recent crime documentaries, but those tools feel a little out of place with the actual material at hand. A more sober discussion of the pluses and minuses of the morality of research carried out on human beings might have been more fitting.

The other big gripe is the heavy handed message at the end of the film, presented cinematically as some big reveal, that it is nurture, not nature, that shapes our lives, even though this goes completely against ALL of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary we've watched for the previous 90 minutes.

It's really quite hard to figure out why this was inserted here: if one of three triplets kills himself, that doesn't mean the thousand other eerie similarities all three share are suddenly discounted or explained away. If they'd simply said 'obviously it's a bit of both', that would have been one thing, but the blank statement being presented as the final conclusion of what we've just seen really weakens the film, and our trust in its makers.

The overall impression is that the filmakers didn't really know where the story was going to go, and that it didn't wind up where they thought it would. Other than that it was an interesting story to find out about and another solid addition to the growing body of notable 21st century docs.
26 out of 42 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
From happy reunion to events much darker in tone
howard.schumann27 July 2018
Though the story has been told before, (again recently in the New York Post of June 24th), seeing how three young lives were damaged in the name of scientific research turns the story from an interesting read into a visceral and ultimately heartbreaking experience. Tim Wardle's ("One Killer Punch") investigative documentary Three Identical Strangers traces the lives of triplets, Robert Shafran, Eddy Galland and David Kellman, all born to a teenage girl on July 12, 1961 in Glen Cove, New York. Placed in different homes by the same adoption agency at the age of six months, neither children nor the adopting parents were told about any other family members, only that the children were part of a "routine childhood-development study" which would require periodic visits and testing.

Using archival footage, home movies, interviews, and recreations, the film traces the trajectory of the boys' life from their happy reunion after nineteen years to subsequent events that are much darker in tone. The boys discovered that they were members of a family of triplets almost by accident. When Robert began his freshman year at Sullivan County Community College, he was repeatedly mistaken for Eddy (who had previously attended the school) and who he soon learned was the twin brother he had never known.

The story of the reunion of the long lost siblings received wide attention in the newspapers and was spotted by David, the third brother, a student at Queens College, and the three were reunited in a tale so amazing that Shafran is quoted as saying, "I wouldn't believe it if someone else was telling it." The happy reunion becomes fodder for media talk shows as the three are interviewed by Phil Donahue, Tom Brokaw and others and display an abundance of charm and sincerity. Without mentioning any possible differences that might exist, they talk about all the things they have in common.

Posing in the same position on stage, they tell us that each of their families had an older sister, they all wrestled in high school, they all like the same color, smoke the same cigarettes (here's a nod to Marlboro), like the same type of women, and, presumably enjoy the same kind of fawning publicity. The rush of fame soon becomes a crescendo and the brothers even make a cameo appearance in the movie "Desperately Seeking Susan." With David and Robert providing the narration and with non-stop pop songs in the background, we follow their lives as they move in together and open a successful restaurant in Soho appropriately called "Triplets."

After a period of time, however, a family dispute, the nature of which is undisclosed in the film, ends in Robert leaving the restaurant and moving out. Little by little, disturbing events surface. As Bob Dylan's song goes, "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there." As told by journalist Lawrence Wright, the reporter who broke the story, we learn that all three brothers had emotional problems. Kellman and Galland had spent time in a psychiatric hospital and Shafran was on probation after having pleaded guilty to charges connected to a robbery. We also learn about Dr. Peter Neubauer, a highly regarded psychologist and Holocaust survivor who ran the research study, the Louise Wise adoption agency, and the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services, all who played a role in the events surrounding the triplet's lives.

Wardle also includes the story of two other twins, sisters separated at birth by the same adoption agency. While there are important events described in the film that are best left for the viewer to discover, needless to say, they are very disturbing. Although some of the film's conclusions are little more than speculation and there are many things that are still not known (records are sealed until 2066), what we do know is enough to shake our faith in any scientific research divorced from considerations of humanity.
14 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
Reversed message
cwlaaker19 October 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I specifically created this account to write this review. The movie started off with impressive content and I could tell there was a real connection between the boys and the films'creators. The last 30 minutes changed all of that. Throughout the whole film the message was nature made these boys so similar. Only after the tragedy did the message all of a sudden change-I was so disappointed that the film left the blame of the tragedy on the father. It was horrific and dishonest to say that this was the cause.
19 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
A superior documentary
proud_luddite21 September 2018
On July 12, 1961 in Glen Oaks, New York: Robert Shafran, Eddie Galland, and Robert Kellman were born as identical triplets to a single mother and later adopted in different families. This documentary chronicles their story which includes their eventual reunion and beyond.

This is one of those documentaries which reinforces the belief that truth is stranger than fiction. It can also join superior documentaries like "Bus 174" (2002 - Brazil) and "Tower" (2016 - USA) as non-fiction films that end up as mysterious thrillers for audiences who are unaware of the events exposed in each film. An odd twist about "Strangers" though, is that some information remains incomplete by the end - this is no fault by any means of the filmmakers who do a superb job. Without giving anything away, there is a perverse reason that so much information is denied to the viewer and to the many involved in this bizarre story.

Some movies finish with happy endings. This one starts with a happy beginning. There is much joy in the reunion and the enormous ripple effect this causes. Once the thrill starts to settle down, the young men naturally want to learn more about their birth and adoption circumstances. What they learn turns the film into a sinister mystery.

Once all the talking heads are introduced within the first twenty minutes or so, a keen observer will notice that another mystery is yet to unfold as the film chronologically reveals the lives of the triplets. Once the mystery is revealed, the emotional impact is stunning.

As if this film isn't rich enough, it even digs into issues of class. Each boy grew up in different circumstances from each other. This further fuels the debate of nature vs nurture. One thing though is not debatable: "Three Identical Strangers" is one of the most fascinating documentaries ever. Not since the Dionne quintuplets were born in 1934 has there been such a fascinating story of identical siblings from a multiple birth.
13 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Came in laughing and left crying
andre_andreas198715 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This documentary caught me off guard because it started as a happy union between three identical brothers and eventually turned into an ethical problem while discussing the importance of nature vs. nurture in human development. The true story of how the brothers united is truly heart warming and funny. The second half is better because it brings to light how an adoption agency in the 60s-80s took part in scientific studies that focused on how children developed based on their environment. Their goal was to separate identical twins and give them to different families to see how the different family structures and environment affected their development. nature vs. nurture. Back then this was less illegal but now it would be shocking. This is a great documentary for students and individuals interested in how scientific inquiry developed, psychology, family discipline, child development, etc.
14 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
Could and should have been much better
austinhouston7 October 2018
The film makers succeed in elliciting empathetic and sympathetic responses from viewers but never demonstrated they actually understood the topic. It would have been very helpful to include interviews from scientists and historians who could actually give context for these multiple birth studies, detail the humanitarian changes in human research instituted since and describe in better detail how children and women were treated so differently in that era. The result is that this film is really not much different from the talk shows of the 70s and 80s that were included.
15 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
Half-baked: This documentary more confounds than it illuminates
dnw-3719 October 2018
Good first half, got me emotionally vested (It is a fascinating story). But then the narrative veers off on tangents, none of which are thoroughly or thoughtfully presented:

First, if you raise the issue of ethics of twin studies, give us a fuller picture. There are hundreds if not thousands of twin studies that are scientifically and ethically sound. (Without them it would be really hard to answer the Nature vs Nurture question).

Second, what makes you (the filmmakers) expert on N vs N based on one case? If you want to raise that topic why not interview some experts in the field: geneticists, evolutionary psychologists & biologists?

Actually, the twin studies (not this one obviously) have already settled the N vs.N question; it's just that the public has not yet caught up. A better documentary would not only pull on the heart-strings but it would also educate and illuminate the mind.
12 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Fascinating real-life tale of triplets separated at birth, reunited and then separated by tragedy
Turfseer4 October 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Once in a while a documentary will be released that features an incredibly original story that will grip you from the outset. Such is the case with Three Identical Strangers, Tom Wardle's fascinating but tragic tale of triplets separated at birth. If you haven't seen it, read this review afterward, as I intend to discuss some of the primary twists and turns in the real-life plot.

It begins as a feel good story which can be likened to the birth of the Beatles. It's 1980 and we meet Bobby Shafran, son of a physician, who drives up in his beat up Volvo to attend his first semester at Sullivan County Community College in upstate New York. When he arrives on campus, he's greeted by numerous people who seem to already know him-even though this is Bobby's first day at school.

Soon it becomes clear that Bobby is mistaken for another kid who looks exactly like him with the same date of birth named Eddy Galland, who attended the school a semester before. An acquaintance of Eddy puts two and two together and realizes Eddy is Bobby's twin. He drives Bobby down to Long Island where Eddy and Bobby meet each other for the first time. They instantly bond and the story makes the NY papers.

But the story doesn't end there. Relatives of a third kid, David Kelland, recognize that he too resembles the two "twins." David also has the same birthday as the others and before you know it, the three are reunited as long lost triplets. The three together are utterly charming and appear on the talk show circuit, where common foibles are highlighted (they all smoke Marlboros and have the same taste in women!). Archival footage from that time reveal the triplets becoming fast celebrities and when they're a few years older, they open a restaurant together in New York City.

The story suddenly grows dark. It turns out that the triplets were placed by the (now defunct) Louise Wise Services, which specialized in placing unwanted Jewish infants in new homes. The triplets were actually the subject of a secret experiment conducted by a noted psychiatrist, Peter Neubauer who was attempting to explore the old "nature versus nurture" argument. Unbeknownst to the triplets, each was placed in homes of a different socio-economical class (Bobby was from an upper middle class home, Eddy from middle class parents and David placed with a lower class family).

Much is made of the seemingly insidious decision by Dr. Neubauer to conduct the experiment, which is likened to a Nazi-like mentality. Ironically, Neubauer was a Holocaust survivor, and according to one of the young assistants involved with Neubauer's original team, such experiments were not considered morally repugnant at the time (as they are now). Apparently a psychological study such as this one was highly regarded as it was justified in the name of and under the rubric of "scientific study." Before his death in 2008, Neubauer was reached by a investigative journalist featured in the film and predictably declined to discuss his involvement in the project.

It wasn't surprising that the triplets' relationship eventually soured after one of them decided to leave the restaurant business. Family members confirmed early problems with the triplets as infants-they all reacted badly to the separation anxiety and displayed various emotional problems. Like the Beatles at the time of their breakup, the brothers' differences eventually rose to the surface.

Despite the hereditary influence, it was the triplets' nurturance that eventually led to their breakup. Of all the fathers, Eddy's was regarded as the strictest but certainly he cannot be blamed for what eventually happened to his son who began displaying symptoms of manic-depression. One day, in the film's most dramatic and tragic moment, Eddy committed suicide at his home. Eddy was perhaps the most sensitive of the three but eventually I think it was a problem with "body chemistry" that led to the dark moods that caused him to take his life.

If the documentary has a weakness, it's in the second half, when a good deal of the archival footage is repeated to highlight the "end" of the "good times." I also wanted to know what the surviving triplets were doing in more recent times.

This is a fascinating story that should not be missed by documentary aficionados.
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Surprisingly kept my interest....
skyrosebutterfly1 October 2018
I'm not one for documentary type of movies, but this one is an exception. I do remember hearing about the twins... later triplets. I thought their story was fascinating back then. Of course, it caught my interest, because I used to live in Sullivan County... so I was eager to watch this movie/documentary.... and eager to see it again. Nicely done and very interesting story.
7 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Put the researchers in different prisons for 18 years and study these a##holes
Ed-Shullivan30 January 2019
Warning: Spoilers
I cannot believe how sick these researchers from the Jewish child development center must have been to seperate these three identical triplet boys from birth and study their different upbringings by a blue collar family, a middle class family, and an upper class family for the next 18 years between 1961 and 1979. At the age of 18 the triplets found each other by accident and so the study was abruptly stopped. The records have been sealed until the year 2066 which means the boys would have to be 105 years old before they could find out what the researchers had documented about their different upbringings in differing social status environments.

Researches eventually used words to describe their research as "ethically compromised' and "nature versus nurture" but I myself would use the single word descriptor of "WRONG" this research was simply just wrong to play with people's lives as if these three triplet babies being seperated at birth could ever lead to a better life than if the three boys were raised in the same household.

I recommend any researcher that was even remotely involved in this sick research study and design should be locked up in seperate prisons for the next 18 years so that the triplets could study "THEM" to see what differences the researchers would be exposed to as they were pulled away from their own respective families. It's not only astonishing but also ironic that it was Jewish researchers that would subject these three Jewish triplets to such a torture of seperating the boys at birth just to study them as the boys would later say as "lab rats".
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
3/10
Had a lot of Potential
bigbadbassface29 September 2018
This movie had a lot going for it and could have been great. There were just too many negatives to ignore. Repetition of the same clips over and over with no real purpose. No subtitles for off-camera speakers/recorded conversations so you had no idea what was being said. And in the end they blame a parent for something with no definitive proof that they were the cause and ends on a broad statement of nature vs nurture it had no right to make. Any parent is going to blame themself when something happens to a child and this just puts the onus on someone without justification. This movie was just uncomfortable to watch and not in an educational nor enjoyable way.
12 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
Tells an interesting story, but is not very investigative in the question of nature vs. nurture.
annab449230 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
A lot of the movie, I think the majority of it, actually, is spent on the early stages of the triplets meeting each other rather than on the question of nature vs. nurture.

And on the question of nature vs. nurture, the movie makes a lot of implications that are not fully fleshed out and it's not clear whether the moviemakers themselves are certain/confident of what they are implicating.

It was not the movie I was expecting and wanted to see, which was an in-depth exploration of the question of nature vs. nurture, delving into the actual similarities/differences of the triplets, their upbringings, how they are alike/different in adulthood, etc. But instead, we just see them seated in front of the camera and telling a story, rather than seeing an investigation into their lives.

For example, pertaining to the nature vs. nurture question, the movie largely implicates that the reason Eddy committed suicide was because he had a disciplinarian father figure who he was not close to, unlike the other two twins who had more involved fathers.

But Eddy's father himself appears in the documentary, and he seems so gentle and smiling and speaks with affection about his late son...

They never show examples of Eddy's father's disciplinarian style except Eddy's mother saying "oh, Eddy wasn't close to his father." That's all we get, and that's pretty much all there is to the nurture side of the question that the movie explores.
9 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
As a mother of twins
moveebuff195320 October 2018
As a mother of twins this story was heartbreaking for me to watch. I feel that three babies were cheated out of developing that special bond that so many siblings have. They were deprived of interacting as babies, toddlers, school aged children who most likely would have had a very different life experience. I could feel their pain even though they smiled for the cameras. They were never given the chance just to be a family together. They were basically lab rats used for a scientific study that will not be published until they are all dead. This should never have been allowed and is disgusts me that these three boys were kept apart. The pain and anguish they have suffered since discovering each other is unconscionable. I wish the surviving brothers peace and comfort for their remaining lives.
4 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
This documentary is a reminder why we love movies!
kewilson-17 July 2018
The Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar in Austin had a special screening on Tuesday of Three Identical Strangers and brought in brothers David Kellman and Robert Shafran. They had all been on a special tour with the documentary with Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League and their last stop was in Austin. Not only was there a screening of the film along with a Q&A. The Highball was turned into Triplets for a night, a restaurant that the triplets owned from 1987-2000 with actual drinks that they had on the menu.

If you don't know anything about Three Identical Strangers yet, you are in for a treat. Directed by Tim Wardle, who did this documentary for CNN Films, this story is one of the most fascinating ones that you will ever come across and the people are still disturbed that it happened to them nearly 40 years later. In the early 1960s, a Jewish board called Louise Wise Services was an adoption agency, but what they didn't tell the adoptive families that they were separating twins and triplets to do a nature vs. nurture study. The families didn't know that their child had a brother or sister, much less a twin.

In 1980 in New York, David Kellman went off to Sullivan Community College only to find that everyone acted like they knew him and was calling him by the name Eddy. He was confused, but one guy named Michael Domnitz came to his dorm room and asked him his birthdate and told him that he had a twin brother out there. They went to a pay phone where Domnitz knew Eddy's number and the voice on the receiving end freaked David out because it sounded just like his own. When the media covered the story, Robert Shafran was watching the news and thought to himself, "I look just like these guys!" Then they all came together and it was a love fest while all their parents were angry and felt like they were picking up the pieces. The triplets had many similarities such as the same speech patterns, smoking the same cigarettes, the same haircut, and had even wrestled in high school. Well, that's just what they did. They were complete strangers, but they got in the floor and wrestled each other like they had known each for their whole lives.

People were looking for the similarities. They weren't looking for the differences, which were there. While they were growing up, The Jewish Board would stop by and see how the children were doing and with the parents' permission, a person would study them and take notes without them even knowing what was going on. They were treating these children like lab rats and this didn't really sink in for the brothers until later. They always knew something was missing and as kids suffered from separation anxiety. They would bang their heads on the crib or on the walls. They found out that the study had them all put in different socioeconomic backgrounds to study how all of these elements worked in growing up. Three Identical Strangers has twists and turns like a roller coaster. If you are Jewish, in your 50s, and adopted, you just might have a twin out there.

On this film tour, Kellman explained how much Tim League made them comfortable and catered to them. "He hasn't let his celebrity change him. He's the real deal!" he said about League. It's nice to know that after a documentary like this, we know that there's good people like Tim League in this world.
9 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Facinating story, but your shock value will vary
bldunn-2534316 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This is a very interesting topic that is well researched and well told by the director. Kudos to him and I expect an Oscar nomination for this film. This is a very difficult story to tell and particularly to wrap up into a tight, cohesive package.

But was it shocking, as much as the marketing materials claim that it would be? The level to which you will be offended by the "bad people" depends on how you view it in context of the time period of the 1960's versus today as well as your own sensibilities. At the very least, this film allows you to initiate interesting discussions about this topic either with yourself, against others' opinions expressed here, or with other people you know who have seen the films. Few films can do that, and for that reason, I'd suggest to go see it.

I do have some beefs. One item that I did not feel merited inclusion was the suggestion that these twins were chosen for the study based on the mental illnesses of their mothers. There was no evidence to support this, and this idea was squashed by the academic near the end. Was it added for shock value? No doubt, as I heard gasps in the audience.

What about the Nature vs. Nurture argument -- was it truly settled? I'd say No, it was not done convincingly so, as the Nurture > Nature conclusion was mostly, albeit emphatically, delivered as a statement of opinion by one of the research assistants at the end of the film. Worse, the implication that Eddy committed suicide, yet his two brothers did not, due to his stricter upbringing was far too big a reach by the filmmaker for me to accept, even when the dad was shown as clueless as to how he could have helped.

Despite my issues, I still suggest you watch this film. At the very least, it will cause you to think.
6 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Surprising
dogmaticdogs2 September 2018
This movie was great. The first half was light-hearted and funny, and made you think the director was leaning a certain way as to its message. The second half took a totally different direction and became dark, sad and somewhat ambiguous. It had me thinking for days, which is a sign of a great movie. My friend literally broke down in the car crying afterwards. It's a journey into the bond between twins, mental health issues and scientific ethical boundaries.
5 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
The ethics of the pursuit of knowledge.
etspettroll5 December 2018
What starts off as a light-hearted story of seeming coincidence slowly takes an meandering twist into darkness. I'm interested in original, well told stories and this one is exception. I find it amazing the lengths people will go to in the name of science, the trouble is, those people tend to lack certain human qualities and as a result people often end up suffering greatly on the basis of their decisions.

Ultimately, I think the testament of a great, well told story is that it leaves you asking yourself big questions. The subject matter of the film leaves you wondering that, but the ethics behind it does not make it right and it just amazes me that it was ever allowed to happen and who was ultimately accountable for that.
4 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
with fluidity and ferrocious rage..
merelyaninnuendo3 October 2018
Three Identical Strangers

Wardle's journey in here breathes the nature of transition with fluidity and ferocious rage. After many attempts on attaining a closure to this harrowing case, Wardle came the closest to the answer with sheer passion and thorough investigation of him and his team that offers a somewhat end point to it. It pays off more than well in here, since ticking for more than 90 minutes, this documentary is not only gripping but exhilarating to encounter. Wardle's work could not be more simple but to understand the impact of such a tale is essential. And his money is on the winning bet. The tale itself keeps you in an awe of it and Wardle's job is to mellow down other aspects and just let the voice be heard.

It begins with electrifying celebratory tone that keeps the audience engaged in its magical or as someone mentions "Disney-alike" bubble that keeps popping newer territories. The screenplay is tightly packed with jaw dropping revelations on each page that uncoils into chaos and excruciating details. And it's that transition that Wardle excels at and it's that transition that makes it hit the sharpest note and deepest cut. Wardle excels at, from offering the dose of euphoric energy to leaving you shook on your seat through its nakedness of nature.

Another primary piece of puzzle that he fiddles with are the clips that is shown repetitively and each time the gist or meaning changes as a newer perspective adds on. As much as plausible the narration is, the editing is somewhat disappointing, for there are few either blank zones or filtered revelations that is not acceptable. Both the brothers, that invested and are part of this tale have given equal enthusiasm to each stage of the storytelling and that is what makes it compelling and competent since they are guiding us throughout the course of the documentary.

Aforementioned, the research carried off by this team is finely detailed and well crafted afterwards into the plot track where the audience is in that still stage till the last frame hits. Despite of not achieving the aspired objective, the documentary raises fair questions that are answered through various perspectives and agendas but at the end, it is left to us and it makes you think twice after leaving the screen.

There are few notions where it shucks away the integrity, especially when it attempts to draw out the emotions by manipulating the viewers, if kept subtle at those points, the honesty in it had enough potential to melt you down on your seat. Nevertheless, this passion project keeps you in an awe of it through peeling off the horrendous nature that resides within humans and alongwith that it differentiates the motives behind any actions and the repercussions that it latter breeds. It's that side of the coin that is flipped by Wardle in here.

Three Identical Strangers is no stranger on terms of the wider range it offers to us, what it's stranger at, is calculating the magnitude of the stakes in here.
4 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
"When I tell my story, people don't believe me. I wouldn't believe it , if the story was told to me!"
paul-allaer21 July 2018
"Three Identical Strangers" (2018 release; 96 min.) is a documentary about identical triplets separated at birth who are adopted into three different families. As the movie opens, Bobby looks in the camera and says "When I tell my story, people don't believe me. I wouldn't believe it, if the story was told to me!" We then go back in time to 1980, when then-19 yr. old Bobby arrives at Sullivan County Community College, and people there call him "Eddie". It doesn't take long to put 2 and 2 together and Bobby and Eddie meet up. The amazing story is picked up by Newsday, and before we know it, a third guy, David, comes forward. They are immediate stars ("go viral" had that term existed back then). At this point we're 10 min. into the movie. What a crazy story, right? You don't know the half of it but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this documentary is directed by UK film maker Tim Wardle, making his feature-length film debut. Due to the sensitive nature of what plays out after the starting premise of the movie (identical triples separated at birth reunite!), I dare not say a whole lot more, but the obvious questions that immediately come to mind are of course how the triplets ended up separated at birth, and what became of the birth mother. The documentary takes its time developing (and I mean that as a compliment). It's like the many layers of an onion (and yes, tears may be involved). This documentary reminds me of the excellent documentary "The Imposter" of a few years ago. I mean, you can't make this stuff up, and if you did, nobody would believe it.

"Three Identical Strangers" premiered at this year's Sundance film festival, to immediate critical acclaim. The movie finally opened this weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati and I simply couldn't wait to see it. The Friday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended excellently, I am happy to report. A well-made documentary is one of my favorite things to watch, and this one in particular is a cut above. I'd readily suggest that you check it out, be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion. For me, "Three Identical Strangers" is a WINNER.
4 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed