The mood sours, gradually and surprisingly, in this thoughtful, journalistic documentary about three identical triplets who were adopted separately at birth and reunited as late teens in early 1980s New York. At the time, these handsome Jewish siblings were quite a story: after stumbling on each other totally by accident, Bobby Shafran, Eddy Galland and David Kellman did the rounds of TV chat shows, wearing matching clothes and provoking ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ when they revealed that they smoked the same brand of cigarettes, enjoyed the same sports and appeared to cross their legs simultaneously, like three peas still united by a long-shrivelled pod. Here it was: a trio of living, breathing examples of nature-over-nurture. How cute. Madonna gave them a cameo in Desperately Seeking Susan. They even opened their own SoHo restaurant (called Triplet’s, of course). They all fell in love, 19 years late, like needy bear cubs making up for so much lost time.
The reality, you might have guessed, wasn’t so rosy. And, of course, from the beginning you’re wondering: who on earth thinks it’s a good idea to separate siblings like this? It’s best to keep schtum on the details, but director Tim Wardle leads us in two directions from the initial glow of reunion. First, there’s the reason and method by which the three were adopted in the first place. It’s not pretty. Second, there’s the reality of the lives they each lived with their adoptive parents (not all of it negative, by any means) and how they each coped with their backgrounds and being reunited. Two of the brothers appear in extended interviews – and their aged faces tell half the story. As a film, Three Identical Strangers is fairly straightforward; as a story, it’s gripping and will have you screaming at the sheer cruelty of it all.