Thursday, July 12, 2018

An amazing story about triplets

If the story told by the documentary Three Identical Strangers appeared in a newspaper or a magazine you'd most likely find yourself reading it compulsively. But, then, the story has been in many newspapers and magazines. Even so, director Tim Wardle has made one of the year's most intriguing movies, a journey that begins with an effervescent sense of joy before moving to much darker places. The early part of the movie focuses on the incredible tale of how three brothers separated at birth and adopted by different parents found each other as young men in 1980. As the brothers' association continued, they emphasized their similarities. They smoked the same brand of cigarettes, loved the same foods, finished each other's sentences and had similar tastes in women. Eventually, they opened a restaurant -- Triplets -- that for a time was an attraction in New York. Much of the audience won't know the rest of the story, so I'll not say much beyond the fact that all three brothers were adopted from Louise Wise Services, an agency that specializes in Jewish adoptions. Based on interviews with the brothers and their parents, as well as with journalist Lawrence Wright, who investigated matters concerning the triplets’ adoptions, the movie begins to grow in complexity. By the time we reach the movie's conclusion, the dark side has taken over, so much so that what initially seemed like a novelty item has turned into something far more unsettling. Wardle makes use of dramatizations, a technique I'm reflexively against in documentaries, but he knows how to keep an audience involved and he has hold of a story that ultimately leaves us with questions about the intentions of an adoption agency, as well as about a team of psychological researchers. Three Identical Strangers begins as a curiosity but evolves into a movie about brothers whose glee at finding one another is undermined by the escalating revelation of difficult truths.

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