Three Identical Strangers
|Three Identical Strangers|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tim Wardle|
|Music by||Paul Saunderson|
|Edited by||Michael Harte|
|Box office||$12.3 million|
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.
The film premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Storytelling. 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.
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. 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. 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, which ultimately led to Galland's suicide in 1995.
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." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 81 out of 100, based on 30 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
The Neubauer twin experiment was first publicized in a 1995 New Yorker article by investigative journalist Lawrence Wright, 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 (who also appear in the film) and the subject of the 2017 documentary The Twinning Reaction, followed by the 2018 television episode Secret Siblings. 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.
- 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
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- Chu, Henry (July 19, 2018). "Hit Documentary 'Three Identical Strangers' to Be Adapted Into Feature Film". Variety. Retrieved January 2, 2019.