Three Identical Strangers (5 stars)

Three Identical Strangers

This stranger than fiction story is powerful, emotional and unforgettable

That old adage of truth being stranger than fiction has never been more apt, nor so artfully explored, as in Tim Wardle's fascinating documentary. 'When I tell people my story, they don't believe it,' remarks fiftysomething New Yorker Bobby Shafran, as the film opens. And, while to give too much detail away would diffuse much of its impact, this is an undeniably phenomenal tale even in its broadest strokes.

Bobby was 19 in 1980, when he went away to Sullivan Community College in upstate New York and, on his very first day, was told of another student who was his doppelganger. Investigating, Bobby found out that young man, Eddy Galland – who lived not far from him in the city – was his identical twin. And then, even more unbelievably, subsequent media coverage led them to another identical New Yorker, David Kellman, who turned out to be a third brother.

The remarkable circumstances surrounding the coincidental reunion of these triplets – who had been separated at birth and raised by three very different families – is astonishing enough in itself. Indeed, in the early 80s they were a media sensation, appearing on talk shows, cameoing in Desperately Seeking Susan, and opening their own Manhattan restaurant called, of course, Triplets. Yet Wardle – making his feature documentary debut after directing factual television – is not so much concerned with their reconciliation, as with the events that led to their separation.

Filmed over five years, Wardle employs both dogged journalistic focus and expert filmmaking instincts, teasing out each discovery and allowing the narrative to twist, turn and loop with each jaw-dropping revelation. Crucially, he uses the brothers themselves as dramatic anchors, their frankness forever reminding us that these are real people, real lives. And, as the full picture reveals itself, and the tone shifts from that initial euphoria to considerably darker shades – augmented by Paul Saunderson's evocative, insidious score – Three Identical Strangers becomes a powerful, emotional and unforgettable study of family, identity and the devastating manipulation of truth.

Limited release from Fri 30 Nov.

Three Identical Strangers

  • 5 stars
  • 2018
  • UK
  • 1h 36min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Tim Wardle
  • Cast: Bobby Shafran, Eddy Galland, David Kellman
  • UK release: 30 November 2018

Documentary about three men, Bobby Shafran, Eddy Galland and David Kellman, who had never met but who discovered in adult life that they were triplets. Wardle uses dogged journalistic focus and expert filmmaking to tell each jaw-dropping revelation, in a powerful and emotional study of family and identity.