Three Identical Strangers
Three Identical Strangers is a 2018 documentary film directed by Tim Wardle, about the lives of Edward Galland, David Kellman, and Robert Shafran, a set of identical triplets adopted as infants by separate families. Combining archival footage, re-enacted scenes, and present-day interviews, it recounts how the brothers discovered one another by chance at age 19, their public and private lives in the years that followed, and their eventual discovery that their adoption had been part of an undisclosed scientific "nature versus nurture" study of the development of genetically identical siblings raised in differing socioeconomic circumstances.
|Three Identical Strangers|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tim Wardle|
|Music by||Paul Saunderson|
|Edited by||Michael Harte|
|Box office||$12.3 million|
The film premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Storytelling. The film was a nominee in the Best Documentary category at the 72nd British Academy Film Awards. It was also on the shortlist of 15 films considered for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, out of 166 candidates.
The film describes how Bobby Shafran discovered that he had a twin brother, when he arrived on the campus of a New York community college and was greeted by students who incorrectly recognized him as Eddy Galland. The two met and, knowing that they'd been adopted, quickly concluded that they were twins. Months later, the publicity of this human-interest story reached David Kellman, whose resemblance and matching adoption circumstances indicated that the three were triplets.
The brothers found themselves alike in many ways, and celebrated their new-found brotherhood. They quickly became a minor media sensation, appearing on talk shows such as the popular Phil Donahue Show. They moved in together, and opened a restaurant called Triplets Roumanian Steakhouse, which they operated together. Over time, however, differences between the three men became apparent, and their relationships with each other and others experienced difficulties. All three had struggled with mental health problems for years, and Galland took his life in 1995.
The brothers had been involved as children in a study by psychiatrists Peter B. Neubauer and Viola W. Bernard, under the auspices of the Jewish Board of Guardians, which involved periodic visits and evaluations of the boys, the full intent of which was never explained to the adoptive parents. Following the revelation that the boys were triplets, the parents sought more information from the Louise Wise adoption agency, who claimed that they had separated the boys because of the difficulty of placing triplets in a single household. But upon further investigation, it was revealed that the infants had been intentionally separated and placed with families having different parenting styles and economic levels – one blue-collar, one middle-class, and one affluent – as an experiment on human subjects.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 97% based on 168 reviews, with an average rating of 8.25/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Surreal and surprising, Three Identical Strangers effectively questions the nature of reality and identity." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 81 out of 100, based on 30 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
The Neubauer twin experiment was first publicized in a 1995 New Yorker article by investigative journalist Lawrence Wright, who appears in the film. The same, never-published twin study was the subject of the 2007 memoir Identical Strangers written by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein (who also appear in the film) and the subject of the 2017 documentary The Twinning Reaction, followed by the 2018 television episode Secret Siblings. The studios Raw TV, Film4 Productions, and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment are jointly developing a dramatic feature version of Three Identical Strangers, with the documentary's director Tim Wardle as an executive producer.
- Kaufman, Anthony (December 17, 2018). "Sundance Hits and Misses: How MoviePass, Politics and Streaming Boosted the Indie Theatrical Box Office of 2018". Filmmaker Magazine. Independent Filmmaker Project. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
Budget: Low seven figures
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- Wright, Lawrence (August 7, 1995). "Double Mystery". The New Yorker. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
- Flaim, Denise (November 25, 2007). "Lost and Found: Twin sister separated at birth are reunited and work toward a new relationship". Racine Journal Times. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
- Shinseki, Lori. "The Twinning Reaction". Firehorse Pictures. Retrieved July 22, 2018.
- "Secret Siblings". 20/20. March 9, 2018. ABC News. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
- Chu, Henry (July 19, 2018). "Hit Documentary 'Three Identical Strangers' to Be Adapted Into Feature Film". Variety. Retrieved January 2, 2019.