Jump to content

Three Identical Strangers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Three Identical Strangers
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTim Wardle
Produced by
  • Becky Read
  • Grace Hughes-Hallett
  • Edward Galland
  • David Kellman
  • Robert Shafran
CinematographyTim Cragg
Edited byMichael Harte
Music byPaul Saunderson
Distributed by
Release dates
  • January 19, 2018 (2018-01-19) (Sundance)
  • June 29, 2018 (2018-06-29) (United States)
Running time
96 minutes
  • United States
  • United Kingdom
Budget$1–4 million[2]
Box office$12.3 million[3]

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 triplet brothers adopted as infants by separate families. Combining archival footage, re-enacted scenes, and present-day interviews, it recounts how the triplet brothers discovered one another by chance in New York in 1980 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.[4]

The film premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival,[5] where it won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Storytelling.[6] 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.[7] In the same year the film was presented at the Rome Film Fest.



The film describes how Robert Shafran discovered that he had a twin brother when he arrived on the campus of a New York community college and was constantly greeted by students and staff who incorrectly recognized him as Eddy Galland. The two eventually met and, finding out both had 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 actually identical triplets.

The triplet brothers found themselves alike in many ways and celebrated their newfound brotherhood. They had the same taste in food, smoked the same brand of cigarettes, all wrestled in high school, and showed signs of separation anxiety as children. 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 named Triplets, which they operated together.

The triplet 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 never was explained to the adoptive parents. Following the revelation that the boys were triplets, the parents sought more information from the Louise Wise adoption agency, which claimed that they had separated the boys because of the difficulty of placing triplets in a single household. However, 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. During the documentary, the question is asked by the siblings if perhaps they, and other sets of twins involved in the study, were chosen because their parents had reported signs of mental illness before having children, but one researcher interviewed denied this flatly, saying the research was simply about parenting.

Over time, however, differences among the three men became apparent, and their relationships with others experienced difficulties. All three had struggled with mental health problems for years, and Galland died by suicide in 1995 following a diagnosis with manic depressive disorder.

The results of the experiment never have been disclosed by the adoption agency or the psychiatric team. At the end of the documentary, text explains that David and Bobby had both been granted access to heavily redacted records of the experiment as a result of the documentary.



On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 96% based on 186 reviews, with an average rating of 8.2/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Surreal and surprising, Three Identical Strangers effectively questions the nature of reality and identity."[8] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 81 out of 100, based on 30 critics.[9]


The Neubauer twin experiment was first publicized in a 1995 New Yorker article by investigative journalist Lawrence Wright,[10] 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[11] (who also appear in the film) and the subject of the 2017 documentary The Twinning Reaction,[12] followed by the 2018 television episode Secret Siblings.[13] 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.[14]

See also



  1. ^ "Three Identical Strangers (2018)". BBFC. Retrieved 2 June 2024.
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ "Three Identical Strangers (2018)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  4. ^ Brook, Tom (July 12, 2018). "Film tells of secret study of triplets". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  5. ^ Ryan, Patrick (June 26, 2018). "'Three Identical Strangers': How triplets separated at birth became the craziest doc of 2018". USA Today. Gannett Company. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  6. ^ Kilday, Gregg (January 27, 2018). "Sundance Film Festival 2018 winners list". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  7. ^ Kojen, Natalie (December 17, 2018). "91st Oscars Shortlists in Nine Award Categories Announced" (PDF) (Press release). Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  8. ^ "Three Identical Strangers (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  9. ^ "Three Identical Strangers Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  10. ^ Wright, Lawrence (August 7, 1995). "Double Mystery". The New Yorker. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Shinseki, Lori. "The Twinning Reaction". Firehorse Pictures. Retrieved July 22, 2018.
  13. ^ "Secret Siblings". 20/20. March 9, 2018. ABC News. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  14. ^ Chu, Henry (July 19, 2018). "Hit Documentary 'Three Identical Strangers' to Be Adapted Into Feature Film". Variety. Retrieved January 2, 2019.