The doc, THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS opens in the year 1980 when 19-year-olds Robert Shafran and Edward Galland found each other at the same community college and realized they were twins separated at birth. (Two coincidences here.) To each other’s surprise, they discover a third. Triplets at birth finding each other is news. The surprise triplets became fast friends and overnight media sensations. When they first found each other, they were wrestling on the floor like puppies. There are clips of the triplets on television shows and in even a movie, DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN. Media highlight their similarities like their taste in women, sports, likes and habits. The differences are obviously not mentioned as these are not news-worthy items. It is a well known fact that if something is constantly brought up, people believe it to be the truth. They open a restaurant called ‘Triplets’. They make a lot of funny, enjoy each other’s company and are very happy. Can the happiness last forever? Every story eventually has a dark side. This story certainly has. This side takes over the film with it becomingly very sinister during its last half.
The dark side involves the discovery at the adoption agency that the triplets (as are other twins) were part of an experiment conducted on human behaviour.
I previewed this doc with my partner as I wanted his input on the subject of twins as he has three good friends who happen to be one of twins. To my surprise, (there seems to be surprises just jumping out with this doc), he informed me that he did not wish to see the second half of the doc as he has already seen it. Apparently, according to him, (I could not find any documentation), the second part of the do with the experiment of separation of twins at birth were already screened on TV as part of a CBC documentary series. This explains the reason the film appearing clearly divided into two parts, each very different with director Wardle never tempting to bridge the two segments or the transition in mood of the two sections at all. The result is a rather disjointed two sections of film, with the audience feeling elated initially and then disgusted at the goings-on.
The film’s best part is the insight given by a few of the interviewees. One, a lady who worked at the adoption research centre gives her opinion that it was not considered inappropriate in those days to do experiments of this kind. Psychology was new and in, and it was a cool subject then, not like today.
Wardle appears to wish to please the audience and the manipulation is clear from the film’s start. The initial meeting of Robert and Edward when Robert when to college is enacted with all the fake surprise looks of the actors. Wardle has gone so far as the film a vintage Volvo cruising down the street, the same make of vehicle Robert drove years ago.
As they say, a documentary is often as good as its subject. A far as Wardle’s documentary goes, what other film could have topped this with a more intriguing subject. THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS will eventually be praised as a film despite its glaring flaws.
THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS is intriguing fodder but one wishes that more conclusion would have been presented regarding the experiments.