Simon Dillon reviews this extraordinary documentary.

Three Identical Strangers

Tim Wardle's extraordinary documentary Three Identical Strangers proves yet again that truth is most emphatically stranger than fiction. If anyone presented this story as fiction, it would be rejected out of hand as utterly implausible. Nonetheless, despite my jaw hanging open at several points in sheer incredulity, the events related and recreated in this film really did happen.

It is best to know as little as possible going in, so I would urge you that if you are unfamiliar with the facts of this case, don't research them beforehand. However, I will say this much. The documentary opens with Robert telling how in 1980, he headed off to college in a new town, and was surprised when people there appeared to recognise him. It turned out they knew his identical twin brother Eddy. Neither brother knew they had a twin, having both been given up for adoption in 1961. Their chance reunion made headlines, only for an even more extraordinary event to occur: they had a third twin, David, who had also been separated from them at birth and given up for adoption.

The reunited brothers bonded immediately and became big news in Reagan's America. Although they had been raised in different backgrounds - one more blue-collar, one more middle class, one more affluent - the similarities between them seemed extraordinary: identical mannerisms, interests, tastes in food, cigarettes and so forth. Despite this feel-good, seemingly happy-ever-after reunion, the adoptive parents began to ask why were the twins separated? Why were they not informed that they had twin brothers? These questions gradually revealed an extraordinarily sinister conspiracy that had the audience I saw the film with gasping in utter disbelief. At this point, you probably think I've said too much, but trust me, I've barely scratched the surface.

As with any great documentary, it isn't just that there is a great story, but that the story is told really well. In this case, Wardle uses interviews, archive footage and some very well-directed reconstructions to reveal the genuinely shocking twists and turns. There are dark places this film goes to that are guaranteed to twist your insides and jab at raw nerves, in its themes of nature versus nurture in particular. I must confess I ended up so emotionally involved that it took me a while to write this review, because I didn't feel I could be objective. I say that to praise the film, because any film that can get under my skin in that way is something very special indeed.

In conclusion, I suspect Three Identical Strangers is going to haunt me for a very long time. I really don't want to say too much more about it, other than to urge you in the strongest possible terms, do go and see it. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.