PLAYWAVE CREATIVE REVIEW: THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS
Three Identical Strangers
Reviewed by Nicole Pingon
‘I wouldn't believe the story if someone else was telling it, but I'm telling it.’ - Bobby Shafran
Three Identical Strangers tells the story of triplets separated at birth, completely unaware of each other's existence, and coincidentally brought together at age nineteen.
Sounds like an elevator pitch, doesn’t it?
But this is real life. It’s Bobby Shafran, David Kellman and Eddy Galland’s story.
In the past, many production companies have attempted to tell their stranger-than-fiction story, but it is director Tim Wardle’s humanistic approach that has successfully brought this story to the screen. Five years in the making, Three Identical Strangers shares the compelling story of these three men, feeding into our obsession with bizarre stories, while exploring deep moral and ethical debates, and shedding light on a story that many powerful people want silenced.
With the accompaniment of Paul Saunderson’s minimalist score, Wardle takes audiences through time, capturing the vibrancy of the ‘80s with evocative 35mm archival footage, then shifting to reenactments and present-day interview footage, travelling between past and present with ease and clarity.
Through interviews with the brothers, their friends, their families, and investigative journalists, Wardle carefully curated a chronological narrative made up of various perspectives. Having the story told directly by those involved allowed a raw and honest voice to emerge; a careful reminder that this is something that really happened, and should be treated that way.
Wardle addresses the sensationalist nature of the media (even back in the day), exploring the triplets’ overnight fame; being interviewed on talk-shows and all over print media, invited to Studio 54 events, and even appearing in a Madonna film. The whole world was fascinated by their stark similarities.
Their shared mannerisms, taste in women, and brand of cigarettes welcomed them into the spotlight, living the dream as they discovered what life was like as their three separate lives became one.
But like life, it isn’t all fun and games.
Stop reading here if you want to watch this film without spoilers (would recommend)!
As the excitement of many ‘firsts’ began to subside and media attention faded, the tough questions inevitably bubbled to the surface. Why were they seperated? Who was responsible for this? Would they be able to live a life together despite being apart for nineteen years?
As the triplets begin to delve into their history, the film begins to take expected, but unpredictable turns, subtly moving the story into much darker territory.
The differences from their years apart proved to take a harsh emotional toll on their relationship with themselves and each other, but the film’s focus was mostly objective and fact-based, honing in on the unpublished Neubauer-Bernard study, authorised by New York adoption agency, Louise Wise Services
What was this study all about? Nature vs nurture? Parenting styles? The genetic disposition of mental illness? Why are the results of the study archived until 2065?
Wardle tackles the context necessary to tell the story, but leaves plenty of loose ends for audiences to ponder and continue researching after the film is over. This film leaves everyone with more questions than answers, which makes sense, because no one knows the whole truth of this story.
Three Identical Strangers, is an extremely well organised film, with each section varying in energy and tone, reflective of the massive highs, massive lows, shocking discoveries and everything in between for the brothers. This story is not light, but Wardle orchestrates it into something truthful and raw, that resonates with audiences and pays homage to all the siblings involved in such human injustice.
While for audiences, Three Identical Strangers exposes us to the ethically dubious nature of our past, leaving us questioning our own ethics and morality, for those involved, this documentary acts as a recount of what has happened thus far, and is just another small step towards their search for the truth: a truth that remains concealed to those it affects most.
THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS
The Ritz Cinema
SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL 2018
6 - 17 June