SFF review: Three Identical Strangers

A feel-good family reunion packs a stunning punch as things take a trippy turn for the disturbing. Wow.

If there were ever a test case on Mark Twain’s truth is stranger than fiction assertion, then sheesh Tim Wardle’s mind-boggling documentary Three Identical Strangersshould be investigated.

In the steamy New York summer of 1980, with Studio 54 and the Limelight pumping, three handsome strangers – Eddy Galland, Bobby Shafran and David Kellman – discovered to their shock and awe that they were, in fact, identical triplets when Eddy headed to college and found himself, a newbie, hailed as an old friend.

A story that thrilled the tabloids and talk show TV hosts, the surprise twins, and then even more surprised triplets found themselves transformed into instant celebrities, a viral sensation long before social media. The charismatic playboys fell head over heels for the brothers they never knew for the first 19 years of their life, lapping up the playboy lifestylethat brought them adoring fans and a liquor store that delivered to the party pad they shared in Manhattan.

And at first this is the sort of doco that will have you grinning from ear to ear with happy tears rolling down your face, as pretty soon they’re running a million dollar a year restaurant cum dance party called, you guessed it, Triplets.

But as joyous as their reunion is, from the very outset their adoptive parents were angry. Why would the prestigious adoption agency Louise Wise Services have split baby triplets – explaining the young boys’ distress in their lonely cots – and, even worse, done so without ever alerting their new parents? One much-loved by all three father is said to have asserted he would have taken them all in in a heartbeat.

Slowly but surely, the happy aura of this new family dissipates as a dark history of mental ill health and manipulation seeps clouds over the bliss of sharing favourite cigarettes, colours and taste in girls. And then the doco takes a turn for the truly wild.

I wont say any more about where it goes, because to do so would be to rob a great deal of the film’s startling, heart-breaking power, but suffice it to say the eternal debate of nature versus nurture gets a rigorous interrogation.

It’s a truly jaw-dropping twist in an already far-fetched reality that’s sure to trigger a whole bunch of Trump supporters who froth over the ‘deep state’. A relic of calculated thinking from a much darker time bizarrely adopted by one of that horrifying period’s near victims.

Indeed, the film’s most chilling interviewee, a giggling older woman with a cheery dispensation and a hall full of photos with the Obamas and the Clintons, is the very definition of the banality of evil, sure to provoke some awkward questions in Washington.

It’s telling that Wardle’s work, and that of an investigative journalist, has already prized open some long sealed doors, but the glimpse at the truth allowed is only partial. This crazy story has some way to run yet

Stephen A Russell @SARussellwords