“In life, unlike chess, the game continues after checkmate.” – Isaac Asimov
Whenever one learns of an inspirational news story, that initial presentation is as far as they’ll ever hear about it. But for the people involved, life goes on. Sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse. Such is the case with Three Identical Strangers, a fascinating look at a set of triplets who never knew about each other until they were older and the effects that revelation had on them.
When Bobby Shafran reached college, he was greeted by people who seemed to know him. He, however, was completely unfamiliar with them, wondering how he could’ve met them and why they addressed him by a different name. One of these people had a suspicion as to the situation after Bobby revealed he was adopted and put him in touch with Eddy Gallant, an identical brother who was separated at birth and adopted into a different family. When the story was reported on, David Kellman (also an adoptee) noted his own similarities to them and promptly made contact. Turns out, these three are in fact triplets.
But that’s only the beginning. After a joyous reunion period with the publicity rounds (plus a short bit in Desperately Seeking Susan), the three and their families set out to uncover their origins. Who were the birth parents? Why did the adoption agency separate them? The search for answers will take a very shocking turn.
Surviving family, friends, journalists who reported on the story, and of course brothers themselves are interviewed. Getting their thoughts and reactions to the events is key in the viewer’s own understanding of what living through such things would be like. The tale on its own is interesting enough, but the added perspectives (especially since the three were each adopted into families of different socio-economic statuses) offer greater nuance and weight to the discussion.
A welcome point the film makes is that bonds determine family much more than blood does. The triplets aren’t now family just because of genetics, but because they became an active part of each other’s lives. Other ways of making this point are subtle but still quite effective. Whenever an adoptive parent is presented, that status is never mentioned in the captions; they are simply “mother” or “father.”
There are some flaws. Some parts seem out of place and would have fit the structure better if moved around. A couple things get brought up but never followed up on (for instance, the restaurant that the brothers opened). Similarly, it would have been nice to know about what some of the subjects are up to today.
Nevertheless, Three Identical Strangers does succeed at telling its story and conveying the necessary emotional impact. The film sees to it that Bobby, Eddy, and David resonate with audiences beyond the tabloids.