Three Identical Strangers

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Three Identical Strangers
Three Identical Strangers.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTim Wardle
Produced by
  • Becky Read
  • Grace Hughes-Hallett
  • Edward Galland
  • David Kellman
  • Robert Shafran
Music byPaul Saunderson
CinematographyTim Cragg
Edited byMichael Harte
Distributed byNeon
Release date
  • 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[1]
Box office$12.3 million[2]

Three Identical Strangers is a 2018 documentary film directed by Tim Wardle and starring Edward Galland, David Kellman, and Robert Shafran. It examines a set of American identical triplets, born in 1961 and adopted as six-month-old infants by separate families, unaware that each child had brothers. The separations were done as part of an undisclosed scientific "nature versus nurture" twin study, to track the development of genetically identical siblings raised in differing circumstances. Combining archival footage, re-enacted scenes, and present-day interviews, the documentary reveals how the brothers discovered one another at age 19 and thereafter sought to understand the circumstances of their separation.[3][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]


The three brothers were born to a teenaged single mother on July 12, 1961. They were actually quadruplets; the fourth brother died at birth, although this information reported by UPI was not included in the film.[8] At the direction of psychiatrists Peter B. Neubauer and Viola W. Bernard, under the auspices of the Jewish Board of Guardians and the prestigious Louise Wise adoption agency, the three infants were intentionally placed with families having different parenting styles and economic levels – one blue-collar, one middle-class, and one affluent – who had each adopted a baby girl through the same agency two years earlier. The brothers were raised by their adoptive families as David Kellman, Eddy Galland, and Bobby Shafran, respectively.[9][10] They discovered one another through a coincidental college connection in 1980 and became very close, but all three struggled with mental health issues for years,[4] which ultimately led to Galland's suicide in 1995.[10]


On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 97% based on 168 reviews, with an average rating of 8.25/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Surreal and surprising, Three Identical Strangers effectively questions the nature of reality and identity."[11] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 81 out of 100, based on 30 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[12]

Related works[edit]

The Neubauer twin experiment was first publicized in a 1995 New Yorker article by investigative journalist Lawrence Wright,[13] 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[14] (who also appear in the film) and the subject of the 2017 documentary The Twinning Reaction,[15] followed by the 2018 television episode Secret Siblings.[16] 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.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ "Three Identical Strangers (2018)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  3. ^ Brook, Tom (July 12, 2018). "Film tells of secret study of triplets". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Stewart, Sara (June 23, 2018). "Separated-at-birth triplets met tragic end after shocking psych experiment". New York Post. Retrieved September 17, 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. ^ "Eddy Galland, Robert Shafran and David Kellman said Friday..." United Press International. November 26, 1980. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  9. ^ Saul, Stephanie (January 31, 1998) [First published October 18, 1997]. "Separated Triplets Had Been Studied Since Birth". Newsday. Retrieved August 28, 2018 – via Greensboro News & Record.
  10. ^ a b Kaufman, Amy (July 1, 2018). "The surreal, sad story behind the acclaimed new doc 'Three Identical Strangers'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  11. ^ "Three Identical Strangers (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  12. ^ "Three Identical Strangers Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  13. ^ Wright, Lawrence (August 7, 1995). "Double Mystery". The New Yorker. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Shinseki, Lori. "The Twinning Reaction". Firehorse Pictures. Retrieved July 22, 2018.
  16. ^ "Secret Siblings". 20/20. March 9, 2018. ABC News. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  17. ^ Chu, Henry (July 19, 2018). "Hit Documentary 'Three Identical Strangers' to Be Adapted Into Feature Film". Variety. Retrieved January 2, 2019.

External links[edit]