It hasn’t been a month, but it’s already time to dive back into the documentary format. Not that it’s been more than a couple of days since I’ve watched one, but as I’ve detailed here before, non-arthouse docs don’t get released every week. The third big documentary release of the year after RBG and Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Three Identical Strangers is marketed as “the most amazing, incredible, remarkable true story ever told”. Ridiculous hyperbole aside, the film details the story of the titular strangers, identical triplets (Robert, Eddy, David) separated at birth who are reunited at the age of 19.
Bobby starts to attend college and is “recognized” by a bunch of people he has never met before. Meeting the roommate of the man who everyone thinks he is, he realizes they have the same birthday, were both adopted, and of course look identical. After winding up in the New York Post, a third is revealed, recognizes his similarities based on their hands (a weird detail but whatever). Their reuniting is the stuff of the feel-good talk show circuit, which they do as they show off how similar they look and act. How they smoke the same cigarettes, like the same women, all have 21-year-old adopted sisters, finish each other’s sentences, etc. They came from different families to be sure (one rich, one middle class, one blue collar), but they all are still so much alike.
Yet there is something else hanging over the entire film where we are just waiting for the inevitable twist. For one, only two of the brothers are present. Second, there’s the fact that the parents were never told that they were adopting one third of a set from the adoption agency. Third, there’s the fact that the movie unsubtly keeps hinting at it throughout. I don’t want to reveal the twist, especially since there the movie is already pretty thin without, just don’t go expecting a twist of the quality and impact of a certain other doc’s twist (clicking is a spoiler). It is one that comes to dominate the second half of the film though and dominate much of the rest of the discussion.
If you know what comes next and have read something or seen something on the subject, congrats, you don’t need to see the movie. Save your money and move on with your life. The film adds absolutely nothing to the discussion. There’s a parallel plot with a journalist that feels so underdeveloped, filled with hilarious reaction shots and (like so much of the movie) vague conjectures that the film almost always undercuts. There’s no resolution to be had, no answers to be found, just a lot of repetition including countless reused shots. I get that life isn’t always satisfying, but it just felt so pointless and padded.
It’s glacially paced and at best this should have been a 60 Minutes special. It’s an unimpressive bit of filmmaking relying on a pretty interesting story to carry the day. The film’s thesis is lazily laid out, spending most of the film talking about the exact opposite of the final point it makes because that’s not as crowd pleasing and that’s this film’s only desire. It’s a lazy attempt to cash in on the easily shocked and those who love adorable clickbait stories online and on talk shows. Any ambitions beyond that are well beyond the grasp of the filmmakers to capitalize on and explore.