Media & Entertainment

Three Identical Strangers: a review

Three Identical Strangers is a non fictional documentary film released on January 19th 2018. It is inspired by the the journalistic investigations of the American author Lawrence Wright. Although some of you may have read it, this movie is still one the few that makes you think hard about your actions and their repercussions. Here’s why…

The movie starts off with an entertaining feeling of ‘believe it or not’. David Kellman, Eddy Galland and Bobby Shafran got adopted by three completely different families when they were 6 months old. They were unaware of each other’s existence and so were their adoptive families. When they were 19, they coincidentally met each other via college connections and this reunion became a global phenomenon. Everyone went gaga over this sensationalist story of 3 smart boys who were identical, biological brothers. They starred in movies and also opened up their own steakhouse. Since then they became inseparable, but what followed was heartbreaking on many levels. The movie unfolds in reverse; starting from a happy ending, it morphs into a cruel but compelling game of chess.

Why did they separate?
Once the celebrations ceased, the questions about their existence and it’s secrecy started to rise. The adoptive parents were seeking for answers and thus confronted the agency. The confrontation did not turn out to be fruitful but one of the fathers overheard celebrations right after and had more questions than before.

Upon further inspection of why or how exactly they were separated, one finds out that it all boiled down to a longitudinal psychological study conducted by Peter Neubauer. In collaboration with the Adoption Agency, Louise Wise, they were put in families of differing financial status, namely upper middle class, middle class and working class. Not by destiny or chance but by careful calculations. They also made sure that each of these families had an elder daughter who was also adopted.  They were mere instruments to measure nature vs nurture, continuously tracked and tested. We also find out that this pair was not the only one that was part of the experiment.

All this for what?
No one knows what it was for, since the findings were never published and the sponsors of this study also remained anonymous. There are many theories as to why they weren’t published.  Was it because the origins of Neubauer would inflict deliberate experimentation on Jewish families or because the study did not discover anything groundbreaking at all? One of the cons of watching this movie would be to deal with these questions because there isn’t a way to quench the thirst of that curiosity in the near future.

To see or not to see?
As a movie, this is a must watch. Director Tim Wardle gathers the original actors of the story to portray an image as real as possible. So my advice would be to be mentally prepared for being speechless. The film has many more twists and turns that I will not spoil for you. But it sure will leave you with a wide range of emotions and thinking about how far science can possibly go. Personally, this movie has been a splendid example of what can go wrong and is an extremely important watch for researchers in making. I believe that no matter how objective and progressive a scientist wants to be, one cannot or should not lose their humanity and morals. This is unethical in absolute ways, as the subjects were not only uninformed, but also faced terrible consequences of the separation.

This film won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Storytelling at the Sundance film festival where it first appeared. It was also nominated by the 72nd British Academy Film Awards and was shortlisted for the Academy awards for the best documentary feature. If you watch it, you will certainly not be disappointed but at the same time, be very disappointed.  

Cover: Pexels/Clem Onojeghuo / Final Editor: Kyle Hassing

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