It’s nice when documentaries really sell their story through the title alone. Three Identical Strangers is just about what it says on the tin: it chronicles the media sensation of triplets, separated at birth, who rediscover each other through chance when they are 19 years old. Despite the craziness of this coincidence, this documentary stretches out its intrigue far past what its worth, making you wonder how his small story can be stretched out even further to feature length – but soon enough, this reasonably amusing tale soon becomes fascinating, yet extremely dark, as the twists and turns of how these triplets became separated soon unravel.
It’s advisable to know as little about this story as possible before seeing this, but here’s the skinny: Robert Shafran, an adopted kid, finds out when he goes to college that he has quite the striking doppelganger, Edward ‘Eddy’ Galland. These two look-a-likes turn out to indeed be twin brothers, separated at birth, as they come from the same foster home and they have the same birthday.
But as this film’s title suggests, the craziness doesn’t stop there. This story becomes so huge and appears in so many newspapers, that David Kellman finds the story and believes, given he comes from the same foster home, has the same birthday, and looks quite like them as well, that these men aren’t just twins, but triplets.
What starts off as a fairly riveting media sensation, complete with the triplets banking on their success as minor celebrities, then takes a serious turn as these triplets then investigate how it was that they became separated by their foster care. It’s a heart-rending, enraging back story to discover as this documentary gradually unveils the secrets and deceptions.
Three Identical Strangers then becomes something less linear and more multi-faceted as it comments on the idea of nature and nurture. Interviews with the remaining triplets, their families, and friends reveal the heart-break they are forced through as they find out about their life-long deception. Three Identical Strangers improves as it goes along, focusing less on the sensation and more on how family and genetics play a role in a person’s upbringing. It uses this mere coincidence to comment on something much deeper and much more universal, without quite making any definite statements on what in our upbringing makes us the persons we are today.