Three Identical Strangers (2018)

“There was nothing that could keep us apart.”

With a title that’s an instant hook and a trailer that sells the mysterious goods, Three Identical Strangers will undoubtedly have certain crowds flocking out of pure investigative interest. If you binge watched Making a Murderer or the more recent The Staircase on Netflix, then this one is for you. And while this larger than life documentary exploits personal tragedy for dramatic gain, the film still sparks a fascinating debate on the merits of nature versus nurture parenting, as well as pondering whether or not our environments really shape who we become. The movie isn’t crystal-clear, nor is the answer, and that presents as many benefits as it does drawbacks.

Bobby Shafran’s first day at his local community college in 1980 was extremely atypical. “Hey Eddy!” people shouted at him across the lawns, much to Bobby’s befuddlement. He’s never met these “friends” before, so why do they recognize him, and why are they calling him by the wrong name? And then he met Eddy Galland. His doppelgänger, and as it turns out, his identical twin. Their incredible story broke nationwide only to become even more grandiose. David Kellman saw a picture of Bobby and Eddy together, looking at a mirror image of himself, knowing these twins were his brothers. Triplets who had never met before? You can’t make this stuff up. They had the world’s attention – and even a cameo in the film Desperately Seeking Susan.

The doc really entertains in these early stages, using archived footage of the brothers to find the pieces they’d been separated from at birth. Clips suggest it was as if they’d never been away from each other a day in their lives. It’s so fascinating that to outsiders these men are all copies when taken at face-value, but to them they’re uniquely similar humans with shared traits and different personalities. Perhaps they’re cell mates, bound together on a scientific level through shared genetic coding. Brotherhood is a bond that can be forged but cannot be faked, and the film seeks a sense of reasoning for why they were robbed of a shared future. It’s incriminating, determined, and all too revealing of mankind’s most power-hungry individual’s quest to play God.

Long story short, an adoption agency hypothesized that different social settings could drastically affect and possibly determine a person’s place in this world. How better to reduce the variables and the outliers than to conduct a study on those who are mere modifications of the same human? Three Identical Strangers presents its remarkable story in a very benign fashion, almost structuring itself like a procedural podcast accompanied by decent video editing rather than a cohesive, well-developed documentary. The movie shocks and awes, and it posits that we are ultimately less in control of our destinies than self-help books would like us to know, but the main thing missing is an answer to the question, “Why?” Three Identical Strangers doesn’t have to justify its existence to anyone, yet it would have been great had it immortalized its fateful circumstances into something with deeper, more engaging conversations and less scripted controversy. The movie has a lot to say and not enough time to finish its opening statement, let alone to fully argue the entire case. Fascinating and fleeting properly sums this one up.

“When I tell people my story, they don’t believe it.”

Rating: 4 out of 5

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