Three Identical Strangers review – This story stranger than fiction is powerful, moving and unforgettable

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  • Nikki baughan
  • November 26, 2018

This story stranger than fiction is powerful, moving and unforgettable

This old adage that truth is stranger than fiction has never been more apt, nor so skillfully explored, as in Tim Wardle’s compelling documentary. “When I tell my story to people, they don’t believe it,” notes 50-something New Yorker Bobby Shafran at the start of the film. And, while giving too much detail would diffuse much of its impact, it’s an undeniably phenomenal tale, even in its broadest strokes.

Bobby was 19 in 1980, when he attended Sullivan Community College in upstate New York, and from day one he was told about another student who was his double. While investigating, Bobby discovered that the young man, Eddy Galland – who lived not far from him in the city – was his identical twin. And then, even more unbelievably, the media coverage that followed led them to another identical New Yorker, David Kellman, who turned out to be a third brother.

The remarkable circumstances surrounding the fortuitous reunion of these triplets – who had been separated at birth and raised by three very different families – are surprising enough in themselves. Indeed, in the early 1980s, they caused a sensation in the media, appearing on talk shows, appearing in Desperately looking for Susan, and opening their own restaurant in Manhattan called, of course, Triplets. Yet Wardle – who debuts in a feature-length documentary after leading factual television – isn’t so much concerned with their reconciliation as the events that led to their separation.

Filmed over five years, Wardle uses both relentless journalistic focus and expert directorial instincts, teasing every discovery and allowing the narrative to twist, twist, and loop with each breathtaking revelation. Most of all, it uses the brothers themselves as dramatic anchors, their straightforwardness reminding us forever that these are real people, real lives. And, as the full picture reveals itself, and the tone shifts from that initial euphoria to considerably darker undertones – heightened by Paul Saunderson’s evocative and insidious score – Three identical strangers becomes a powerful, emotional and unforgettable study of family, identity and the devastating manipulation of truth.

Limited release from Fri 30 Nov

Three identical strangers


  • 5 stars
  • 2018
  • UK
  • 1h 36min
  • 12A
  • Realized by: Tim wardle
  • To throw: Bobby Shafran, Eddy Galland, David Kellman
  • UK release: November 30, 2018

Documentary about three men, Bobby Shafran, Eddy Galland and David Kellman, who had never met but found out as adults that they were triplets. Wardle uses relentless journalistic focus and expert cinematic directing to tell each breathtaking revelation, in a powerful and emotional study of family and identity.

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