Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Review: "Three Identical Strangers" is an emotionally-draining, eye-opening experience

Three Identical Strangers Review
Being the movie fan that I am, I will give anything a chance. That includes documentaries. I'm talking about theatrical documentaries, a good documentary can allow the audience to travel to some of the strangest parts of our world and discover stories we would never believe are non-fiction. It's amazing just rich our world really is, and the stories each and every one of us have. It blows my mind even further that there are seven billion of us sharing this planet as we speak, and learning everyone's story and their interests would be a dizzying roller coaster. Every once and awhile though, documentaries take us to corners of the world we wished we didn't see, and just as we can have a fun surreal experience, we can have a cold and cruel experience as well.

"Three Identical Strangers" is a documentary about the true story of David Kellman, Robert Shafran and Eddy Galland. The movie begins with Shafran recounting his first day moving into a Community college in New York. He feels weird because everyone is really nice to him, and just about everybody he comes in contact with refers to him as Eddy. He eventually connects with someone who tells him that he looks like Eddy Galland, a student who transferred to a different college at the end of last year. When Shafran discovers that he shares a birthday with Galland, they had to meet. They soon find out that they were born on the same day and adopted out of the same agency. They are identical twins. Their story makes headlines, and soon enough they are contacted by a David Kellman. Kellman also shares the same birthday, born at the same time and adopted out of the same agency as the other boys. It's evident, the boys are identical triplets.

For a long stretch of the movie, the focus is on this massive discovery for these three young men, and it changes their lives forever. They go on several talk shows together. Their story hits several newspapers. They cameo in a Madonna music video. Not only does their bizarre story attract attention, but the boys themselves grow close. They party together, they chase women together, they begin to share an apartment. You can't help but to laugh and relish in the crazy coincidence that landed on these boys and in the early moments, the movie really racks up the charm and the goofiness of the situation.

Its when the boys decide to find their birth mother where the story takes a hard left turn. Suddenly, the movie becomes not very funny at all.

I don't know how many times I have mentioned this on my blog, but I was adopted. It is kind of obvious if you've ever seen my family pictures. My older brother is adopted too and its clear. He's well over six foot with thin hair and I'm roughly 5'9 with thick hair. My brother and I both got the best case scenario with our adoption. We have parents that have shown us everyday how loved and valued we are as people. Our adoptions were closed adoptions and we don't know a whole lot about our families at all. Our parents have always been open about our adoptions and they've been willing to disclose any information they could if we asked for it. In "Three Identical Strangers," imagining my family purposely not getting key information about my adoption or my brother's adoption sent a chill down my spine. And knowing the reason why such information was classified hit me hard with a terror more sinister than any horror movie in recent memory.

I'm going to be coy here, explaining what happened once the boys and their families started digging into the agency that got them adopted. Because I don't want to spoil anything for anyone. Tim Wardle has carefully constructed a fairly massive story and has done so with real tension and heartbreak. He does a really good job with the story's tonal shifts. Like I said above, there is a silly energy to the first half of the film, then things downshift ever so slightly once the boys get comfortable together and remember that they have separate lives from one another. How difficult it can be to share your life with other family is investigated. Then, once the film really descends into the adoption agency and their birth mother, complete horror. You won't be able to fathom just how dark our world really is and just how shitty some people are.

 I think because I am adopted myself, this movie pushed a button in me that effected my emotional center. But I don't want that to sound like this movie is only for one audience. I think anybody anywhere can get something out of this. It's a harrowing discussion on the nature vs. nurture debate and it will have many discussing just how far we should go in any direction in the name of science. I also think audiences are not going to be able to believe this incredible true story, especially as it gets crazier and darker as the movie wears on. "Three Identical Strangers" is a hard-hitting and draining experience, and also one of the year's best films.


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