Hot Docs 2018: Three Identical Strangers
(A word of warning, I would recommend going into Three Identical Strangers knowing as little as possible, as its impact will certainly be stronger not knowing anything more than the basic plotline and the title).
The first 30 or so minutes of Tim Wardle's Three Identical Strangers sets the audience up for a fun, wistful experience. Three 19-year-old men; Bobby Shafran, Eddy Galland, and David Kellman, discover they are triplets separated at birth, and find they all share exceptional similarities. Soon they become the talk of the world, appearing on the front page of every newspaper, interviewed on a plethora of talk shows, and cause a frenzy everywhere they go as the identical siblings that found each other.
We learn about the range of distinct family environments they were raised in, the conspicuous similarities they held in adolescence, the types of parental figures which helped forge their personalities, and the pathways that led to their meeting for the first time. It helps a lot that Bobby, Eddy, and David are all quite personable and jovial, showcasing an electric eccentricity to their meeting that permeates over several years as they eventually move in and start a business together. It has all the makings of a larger-than-life, stranger than fiction scenario.
And then, the story takes a step backward, as the mystery behind the decision to alter their lives comes forth, revealing a dark and sinister undercurrent. It goes without saying that this section of Three Identical Strangers will certainly cause viewers to pontificate on not just the nature vs. nurture debate that has formed the basis of several scientific studies, but the ethical parameters that go into altering a family dynamic and the ensuing, undoable damage that takes place years later. There are twists and turns that will make jaws drop, and there is plenty of emotional stakes as we see these men confronting their past several decades later, reconciling with added insights previously unknown to them.
Well paced at a brisk 90 minutes and moving through each section without too much of an abrupt tonal shift, even when venturing into unsettling territory, Three Identical Strangers comes well recommended, in the same vein as other shocking mystery-focused docs like Tickled or The Imposter. For its ability to express a deeply humane approach to siblings being torn apart by forces beyond their control, it's bound to be one of the year's most talked about and celebrated documentaries.