In 1980 two identical twins, ostensibly separated at birth, discover each other through shared connections at a New York community college. The story went front page after reporters confirmed their shared origin from a Jewish adoption agency. When a third sees the story he realizes that he too is a separated brother and the story goes nationwide, with all of the late shows and afternoon talk shows featuring them. Director Tim Wardell picks up the story nearly 40 years later, with the reunited triplet brothers having lived their lives, building a business together and experiencing joy, sorrow and loss. An unexpected twist is found: Their separation may not have entirely been an accident. And they may not have been the only ones! We are led to wonder: could their journey have been about the fundamental question of nature vs. nurture? And if so, which weighed most on them?
The Production: 5/5
Knowing only the bare basic facts of the brother’s separated at birth saga going in I was immediately hooked on this story. As the onion unwraps about the initial meetings between brothers Robert Shafran, Edward Galland, and David Kellman, we learn their similarities and instant kinship. But this documentary doesn’t stop there, it pulls at the string of ‘how could this have happened’ and the unexpected answer to that question is not fully resolved, but the pieces we DO learn are heart wrenching, anger inducing, and absolutely fascinating all at once. Every participant masterfully tells their part in the tale, and we soon learn why some of the voices are not their to tell their own side of the story. Three Identical Strangers won the 2018 Sundance Festival U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Storytelling for damn good reason and is worthy of a Home Theater Forum Highly Recommended rating.
3D Rating: NA
The interview sections are produced with a simple studio setup that highlights the interviewees facial movements and really brings out the raw emotion they encounter when telling their parts of the story.
There are a number of historical recreations that utilize significant haze and out of focus effects that are inherent to the stylistic choice the director has made. These ‘flaws’ give a dreamy and someone muddled atmosphere that is perfectly rendered and should not be considered defects in the image quality.
It’s one of the best produced documentaries I’ve seen, and the execution of video quality is perfect on both fronts.
In a rare turn for a documentary film, Three Identical Strangers is presented in DS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and makes use of every channel available throughout the film. Auditory cues are placed in all corners, with sound effects for cars, cities and college and even medical equipment are natural, pleasing and engaging. The interviews are crisp and clean, and really allow the participants personalities to shine through. A plus quality for a film, an auditory gem for a documentary.
Special Features: 3.5/5
There’s only a couple of extras here. Most notably is a 15 minute clip from a Q&A with the director, cast and crew. That is a must a see.
In addition there is a feature commentary (not my bag but could be worthy of your time if you dug the story as much as I did. There is also a very week photo gallery and the trailer.
As noted Three Identical Strangers easily earns a Highly Recommended from me, and shoots right into my top five or higher of favorite documentaries. I’m reluctant to discuss anything past the brothers introductory story because it really is something that will blow your mind when you dig into it, and as the Q&A notes the story is not quite finished yet. Count me in for following the rest of the story as it develops. It is one for the ages!tt7664504