It begins when a curious occurrence plays out between three identical strangers. The fact that all three lived in such close proximity was just another weird coincidence that made the situation that much more strange.
Eddie, Bobby and David were born on the same day in July 1961 and, as we find out early on, were triplets. Separated at birth and growing up without their brothers, this was an isolated incident that could be analysed and compared, begging for an answer to the question over whether it was nature or nurture that dictated the lives of these men.
When they first realised they were related, we see them embrace the inevitable furore over their unique situation. Television shows, newspapers and magazines clamoured over them, catapulting them across the world and they lapped it up. Sex, drugs, rock and roll, the three men turned New York into their own play park and frequented Studio 54 and The Copacabana. In Britain, we may not be aware of their fame but if you were watching TV in America in the early 1980’s, they seemed to be everywhere. They smoked Marlboro. They all wrestled at school. They all fancied older women. It is all a barrel of laughs and there is a possibility that Three Identical Strangers may be a mere what-happened-next biopic on the three men – especially as Eddie is noticeably absent from the talking heads that speak to us throughout.
But midway through, Three Identical Strangers takes a sharp turn. The nature versus nurture argument becomes front and centre and their differences, and similarities, begin to reveal a darker, brutal truth. Three Identical Strangers weaves a story together and slowly teases an ugly underside and an ethical conflict that pre-dated the birth of Eddie, Bobby and David. Indeed, they looked for their mother and their parents questioned the Louise Wise Adoption Agency about the colossal mistake that was made. Why were they not informed? Whether adopted or not, the parents had a right to know if they had such intimate relations.
Three Identical Strangers manages to present arguments, and ensures that we are witness to both sides of the story. But by presenting these men, as husbands, fathers and older men, we see the toll of the sins of others. How such arrogance and superiority meant that one person could treat others as mere answers to a dinner-party question. When we look back on the 1960’s, we like to think of free love and peace but these liberties can be abused in the most thoughtless way.
Gently told and deeply connected to what makes us human, Three Identical Strangers reminds us how honesty and full transparency is crucial in a society that wants the best for the future. Winning the Dorfman Best Film Award at the 22nd UK Jewish Film Festival secures the documentary as a must-see film of 2018. Most of the events in this documentary take place in the 1960’s and 1980’s, but the ramifications are still felt today and the heavy heart and deep love that these men have for each other shines through them. Recording the testimonies in 2018 puts into focus how time does not always heal – and emotional scars can be buried exceptionally deep with horrific consequences.
This was originally published for Culturefly.co.uk in December 2018