Review: Three Identical Strangers is a complex and sinister doc

Director Tim Wardle's film about triplets separated at birth offers a surprising testament to the power of nurture over nature

THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS (Tim Wardle). 96 minutes. Opens Friday (July 13). See listing. Rating: NNN

The eponymous strangers in British director Tim Wardle’s documentary are American triplets Robert Shafran, Eddy Galland and David Kellman, who first met by sheer happenstance as 19-year-olds in 1980. Separated at birth and raised in different homes without knowledge of each other’s existence, their story brims with uncanny parallels. Yet what makes this particular twin narrative stand out are the ways in which these men proved to be dramatically different from one another. 

The triplets became celebrities, appearing on talk shows, gaining access to the upper echelons of New York City nightlife and opening a hugely successful restaurant. If you don’t know the story, there’s much that could be considered spoilers. Let’s just say things take a more sinister turn as the triplets gradually uncover the circumstances of their separation and placement, with the brilliant investigative journalist and Twins author Lawrence Wright turning up to provide extra insight. 

Wardle’s approach suffers from the documentarian’s anxiety over holding a mainstream audience’s attention: overly illustrative stock footage, a soundtrack that’s too on the nose, too much cutting and repetition. But I credit him with bringing organization and coherence to a complicated and immensely compelling story, one that offers a surprising testament to the power of nurture over nature. | @nowtoronto

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