Three Identical Strangers review Eddy Galland David Kellman Robert ShafranYear: 2018
Director(s): Tim Wardle
Writer(s): n/a
Region of Origin: USA

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Rating: PG-13
Digital, Color, 96 mins

Synopsis: Three young men who were all adopted discover that they are triplets who were separated at birth. (Source)

How many times have we heard that truth is stranger than fiction? This especially rings true in the case of Three Identical Strangers, which also adds an unmistakably tragic tinge to the classic expression. Hinging on a trio of triplets secretly separated at birth, Tim Wardle’s documentary begins with awe and wonder, before unexpectedly transitioning into something much more sinister and devastating. The best way to experience the film would be to steer clear of any reviews (including this one), and to just see it for yourself. Wardle’s film defies any expectations, celebrating the innate bonds of brotherhood and family, while also exposing an inexplicable cruelty.

In 1980, 19-year old Robert Shafran arrived for his first day of school at Sullivan County Community College. You can imagine his surprise, then, to be the new kid which everyone seemed to already know. Hailed as Eddy and almost universally loved, Robert is thrown for a loop, enjoying his newfound recognition and acceptance. It isn’t until a student approaches him, suggesting that he may have a long lost twin. From here, Robert is introduced to Eddy Galland, a man who shares the same face. They quickly form a deep connection. Instantly, the two become headline news, twins separated at birth, which catches the attention of David Kellman, a third, separated brother. For a moment, the trio’s strange circumstance leads to five minutes of fame, but when a reporter uncovers the truth behind their separation, things turn grim.

Three Identical Strangers review Eddy Galland David Kellman Robert ShafranWithout question, Robert, Eddy and David’s lives aren’t something that could’ve been bested by even the greatest fiction. Yet, this is more engrossing and fascinating than any thriller or bizarro drama out there. Wardle rolls with the punches, allowing Robert and David to share their lives from beginning to present, first focusing on the joy and energy of their initial revelation, before things become infinitely more complex. The entire disturbing tale is punctuated with clever dramatizations, well-placed news reels and confessionals from the brothers, friends, family and others, but never slows down or feels merely dictated. This is a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants shocker by all accounts. It eventually pulls back to paint a damning view of long-kept secrets and the humanity that gets lost for the sake of progress. Still, Wardle finds empathy with his characters, dissecting nature, nurture and familial bonds that have been systematically stripped away.

What initially feels like a fluff piece, ends up being a powerful look at the importance of family, especially the support systems that we use to help us navigate through life. The violations that occurred to these three brothers and their families is nothing short of evil, making this something that just couldn’t stay silent for too long. While Wardle has found himself a once-in-a-lifetime goldmine of a story, the film never feels exploitative, but rather a genuine attempt to shed light on some insidious wrongs. Though the film can’t possibly right the sins committed to these men, Three Identical Strangers is still necessary and important. If a story like this can happen, what else is going on out there?

SG