Monday, August 6, 2018

Three Identical Strangers Is Full of Twists And Humanity

We all know the phrase "Truth is stranger than fiction", it's one that's been used to death in describing real-life events that are so strange you can't believe they didn't just happen in a fictional piece of media. That turn of phrase feels especially appropriate in describing Three Identical Strangers, a new documentary from director Tim Wardle that covers the true story of three men, David Kellman, Bobby Shafran and Eddy Galland, realizing as young adults that they are, in fact, identical triplets separated at birth. These three men had no clue they had any blood-related siblings and now this incredible discovery has turned their whole worlds upside down just as they become the subject of widespread fascination by the American public.

As this trio of men go on all sorts of television shows to show off how similar they are to astounded crowds, one might think they know exactly where this documentary is going, we're going to see the fame these three guys experienced and then we'll see the normal lives they carried out after the media hubbub died down. But Three Identical Strangers prides itself on constantly zigging when the viewer thinks it's gonna zag and the crux of the features attention gets introduced by way of a question lingering in the mind of the parents of these identical triples: how were they not told these kids had identical siblings? Why were these youngsters separated after spending their first six months of existence together? 

The answer to that reveals a nasty conspiracy that sends viewers tumbling down a rabbit hole of lies & deception committed by doctors who were looking to use the trio for scientific reasons, in the process giving the three of them varying degrees of mental scarring. There are all kinds of dark twists and turns lying in the circumstances that led to the titular characters of Three Identical Strangers to be separated and it's just one emotional gut-punch after another discovering the selfish reasons behind why these three men were kept apart. In essence, Three Identical Strangers is all about exploring the perspective of the two surviving triplets in order to restore the humanity that the scientific experiments they were unwittingly ensnared in constantly minimized.

Of course, as so many movies can attest, a bunch of twists do not a movie make, and thankfully Three Identical Strangers is already thoroughly fascinating before the curtain gets drawn back on the circumstances that led to this trio being separated as newborns. Absorbing interview segments with two of the three identical triplets are accompanied by recreations of pivotal moments of their lives and, more prominently,  archival footage of the trio being interviewed by media outlets back when this sensational story first broke. Three Identical Strangers does a great job of establishing these triples as complex people before revealing all the malicious treachery that led to their separation.

Among the best traits of this motion picture is how it reveals the subtle villainy lurking beneath the surface of seemingly normal moments or circumstances something it achieves through, among other methods, choosing to replay certain pieces of already seen interview footage right after a specific revelation that lends a whole new layer of context to what you've already seen. Nothing is as it seems in the world that these identical triplets inhabit and the timing of how certain pieces of archival footage are incorporated into a documentary chronicling their lives reinforces that in these kinds of clever filmmaking techniques.

As the twists pile up, your heart begins to break for all the agony these three went through trying to find answers and cope with the lingering mental consequences of being separated at such a young age. Again, the way that Three Identical Strangers make its titular leads actual people in the first third makes all the difference in the world here, you wouldn't be able to really get involved in the labyrinthine amount of deception these kids unwittingly endured if director Tim Wardle didn't assemble the footage at his disposal in a way that made you care about them. But Three Identical Strangers does indeed get you fully wrapped up in its twist-filled tale, one that never forgets the human element of a story that really does epitomize how truth can be so much stranger than fiction.

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