Three Identical Strangers, rated PG-13
This well-made documentary tells the incredible true story of three brothers who were separated at birth by the Louise Wise Services, a Jewish adoption agency in New York. Their story is truly one of truth being stranger than fiction. The film is directed by Tim Wardle and includes interviews with the three boys, some of their family members and others involved in their story along with home movies, archival footage and re-creations.
The boys’ story is told sequentially and unfolds like a mystery. On July 12, 1961 in Glen Oaks, New York, Robert Shafran, Eddie Galland, and Robert Kellman were born as identical triplets to a single teenage mother and later adopted by different families.
The film begins in 1980, when one of the boys arrives for his first day at Sullivan County Community College, and is warmly greeted by returning students, which he feels is very strange, since he has never been there and didn’t know any of the students. It turns out that he has been mistaken for someone else, which he finds out to be his identical twin. When the story hits the New York newspapers, a third brother is identified, and we see the happy reunion. The boys are instant celebrities, appearing on the Today Show, the Phil Donahue Show and even have a brief cameo opposite Madonna in the 1985 film Desperately Seeking Susan. They have some of the same mannerisms, smoke the same brand of cigarettes and have the same taste in women. Later, they would own a restaurant called “Triplets” together.
Louise Wise Services had separated the boys (as well as other children), at birth, and they had been adopted by three different families – an upper-class family, a middle-class family and a working-class family. Some of the parents were more loving than others and some had stricter discipline. None of the families had been told that the boys were part of triplets separated at birth.
The first half of this film was heart-warming and funny. The second half of the film, which I won’t ruin with spoilers, takes a shocking, disturbing and much darker turn as we meet New Yorker reporter Lawrence Wright, who looked into the boys’ story.
This documentary is well-written, with good editing of the interviews. The major theme in the film is family, also secrecy, and betrayal. The only content concern is some adult language.
Three Identical Strangers is a well-made documentary that is both heart-warming and heart-breaking.