Three Identical Strangers is a very entertaining documentary that supplies some food for thought. The conclusions could be pondered with almost any level of knowledge about the story, but the entertainment factor is higher the less you know going in. With an eye toward preserving that aspect, I’ll summarize by saying in the 1980s three adopted teenagers from different households discover they’re triplets. Fun ensues. Then complications. Circumstances are not quite what they seem.
The brothers’ discovery and subsequent rocket to fame make the sleeker and stronger first half of the film. The story is a natural attention-grabber and the film mixes the right amount of details from the brothers’ firsthand accounts and the national news coverage to draw the right amount of awe and laughs.
The second half plumbs the obvious but no less fascinating larger questions from the evidence in the story. The nature versus nurture debate has raged for years but rarely do we get a study in it as strange as this one. The film doesn’t stray far from the talking heads / b-roll / archive formula, but it uses these elements wisely when revealing twists and investigating their implications. Director Tim Wardle repeats earlier clips from fluff interviews and talk shows with the triplets and lets them hit with new impact as the context changes.
Sharp-eyed viewers will get ahead of the story and while a later development won’t surprise, it has no less impact. Unfortunately the film stretches a bit too far reaching for a conclusive argument and one minor player is treated unfairly by the film in this effort. It’s not ruinous, but it’s a bit of a sour note to leave on.
An interesting story well-told is always worth the price of admission. The world is a stranger place than we can imagine.