Three Identical Strangers (2018)

   Director: Tim Wardle  With: Bobby Shafran, David Kellman, & Lawrence Wright. Release: Jun 29, 2018 PG-13. 1 hr. 36 min.

Director: Tim Wardle
With: Bobby Shafran, David Kellman, & Lawrence Wright.
Release: Jun 29, 2018
PG-13. 1 hr. 36 min.


Tim Wardle's “Three Identical Strangers” is the kind of story that writers, or anyone fond of that art, would love to be responsible for creating. It’s an infusion of various genre’s and styles, transferring from your basic suspenseful drama to a thrilling mystery to a sweeping and hefty dramatic reveal that soon builds to a crescendo of ambiguity. It contains intrigue, originality, excitement, thematic integrity, profound messages, unanswerable scientific inquiries, and it's all real. 

Just like Eddie’s college dorm room friend, who spilled the bean to his long-lost twin brother Bobby, stated: “this is a story you won’t believe.” Seemingly designed for something of a cinematically empowering drama that searches for the truth and opens with a title card that reads “based on a true story.”  

This happened though, well before my time too. I was lucky enough to have it that way though, allowing this experience to be the first encounter with this once in a lifetime kind of story. It’s just that too, “Three Identical Strangers” convening to discover a forbidden truth, one that has encompassed the outlining of their lives. Meeting and acquainting with each other as if they grew up with one another, ending their first night together by wrestling on the floor with their now shared lovable man of a father, nicknamed “Bubbalah.” They each grew up with a different father though, each of which adopted these children from the same adoption agency, Louise Wise, one of the largest on the entire east coast. 

It begins in a way that overlooks all of the mystery for the first 30-45 minutes, reveling in the sheer majesty of three prodigal sons reuniting with another, each stemming from different backgrounds. David derived from a blue-collar family, one filled with immigrants and provided him with the same inherent workhorse mentality, and Eddy arrives from a middle-class parentage, one that believed in a stricter, military style of teaching. The third twin, Bobby, emanates from a wealthier household, a far more well-off estate of life that was able to provide him with a better knowledge of how the world works with better schooling, better opportunities, and exposure to the potential that life beholds, financially speaking. 

When they discover that someone may have orchestrated this entire event, from the differing wealth classes to the coincidental adopted sisters, everything may have been constructed in a way that services science over all things. Providing a study that is meant to answer one of science's most prominent inquiries in that of which is more significant in child growth: nurture or nature? 

A puzzle that could never be authentically answered without crossing ethical boundaries, which inevitably led to the study remaining unpublished, I suppose. We don’t actually know. The study was buried behind closed doors by its long-forgotten orchestrator Viola Bernard, locked in am an unbreachable cage at Yale University, locked and keyed until the year 2066. However, there is one exception in that of a subclause that allows access to the documents if granted by the board of Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services, and I should stop there because this is a story that is best when discovered. 

It plays like that of a great mystery-drama one that has its fair share of tragedy, which is why the on-going montage of these three long-lost brothers plays for a few scenes too long. Rejoicing in the extraordinary events that occurred that lined-up to a heartwarming, and triumphic moment in the story. These guys knew each other and expressed the similarities on national broadcasts, allowing them to become overnight celebrities, trending throughout the East Coast. It’s a marvelous thing to happen, but it goes on and on and on, leading me to question at one point: “Isn’t there a mystery to this whole thing?”

It basks in this incredible story too long, getting sunburned by the harsh spotlight placed on this one tone of the story, needing to get jump-started by the mystery, so that the darker turn of the tale reignites your interest. Evoking a continually twirling journey of emotional manipulation, as we see the makings of a family tragedy that could have partially been blamed by the puppet masters behind the scenes of this story, someone who the film treats as the villains of this tale. 

Providing grumbly rhythms of the score to underline the interviews with these so-called “scientists,” but they are scientists in search of a discovery that would change human evolution as we know it. The two members we interview we're merely researching assistants as well, affecting a handful of lives that arguably may have led to one of our greatest revelations in sociological and psychological history. An answer that may suggest that our genes play a much larger factor that we anticipate, at least that was my opinion until the tragedy of Eddy takes hold, making you ask if this study is worth those risks? If you're morally conscious, then it's a passionate “no.”

It’s a line not worth crossing, toying with someone else’s life, but the villains here are not the research assistants. There is no need for villains in this story, in fact. The story is enticingly enchanting on its own. It’s something of fantasy turned reality kind of a story, inevitably proving that truth is stranger than fiction, and with the help of David and Bobby and filmmaker Tim Wardle, this true story becomes one of 2018’s best. It indulges itself for far too long, but inevitably provides a story worth investigating, one that summarizes itself with a hopeful finale that states how free-will manufactures our destiny. 

Spreading this message of how life is not some randomization of events, instead of a game of choice that has no overlooking design to its structure. It’s despairing, investing, and beautiful. Much like that of “Three Identical Strangers,” life is sensationally riveting, but we all choose to indulge the best of moments, fearing to learn from the tragedies that we all experience. A profound lesson that comes from a story that will leave you researching for hours on end, trying to discover the truth behind it all, or maybe that’s just me.