In the beginning (and the film says as much itself), this story seems too strange to be true. Ninety-five minutes later, not only will you believe the tale; you’ll realize that it was even more bizarre than you first thought. It’s an amazing and heartbreaking story.
Let’s lay out the basic facts. In 1980, a Jewish kid named Bobby Shafran drove to Sullivan County Community College in Sheldrake, N.Y., to start school. In spite of it being his first day on campus, everyone seemed to know him. They called him Eddy.
Eddy Galland, it turns out, was Bobby’s identical sibling, separated at birth and adopted into another family. Newsweek picked up the story, which is when David Kellman realized that he was their identical sibling, too.
Tim Wardle’s well-paced, excellently edited documentary tees up everything in the opening 10 minutes, and then starts raising questions. How did these triplets come to be separated? Why didn’t their parents know anything about their brothers? And what lessons about nature-vs-nurture can be learned from their bizarre history?
The less you know going in, the more you’ll appreciate the film’s twists, which earned the director a special jury prize for storytelling at the Sundance festival, where Three Identical Strangers premiered in January.
Suffice to say that Bobby, Eddy and David made the most of their fame in the early-going. They moved to New York City, rented an apartment together, started a restaurant (Triplets, of course) and tore up the town. They had a cameo in 1985’s Desperately Seeking Susan. Eddy, who didn’t have insurance, had his appendix taken out as Bobby.
Eventually, all three settled down and got married. They located their birth mother, which even in the pre-internet age wasn’t hard given their fame; they were in some ways the Dionne quints of their time.
Wardle uses the occasional dramatic recreation, but mostly sticks to interviews with the triplets, their wives and adoptive parents, as well as journalists who followed the story, and footage from their many talk-show appearances. But the more we learn about the circumstances of their separation, the more the mystery deepens.
I can heartily recommend Three Identical Strangers. I just can’t tell you how it ends. And to be honest, you might not believe me if I did.
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