'Three Identical Strangers' hits the documentary jackpot

"Three Identical Strangers" is an astonishing documentary, a look at how a feel-good, made-for-TV "separated at birth...

Posted: Jul 22, 2018 9:45 AM
Updated: Jul 22, 2018 9:45 AM

"Three Identical Strangers" is an astonishing documentary, a look at how a feel-good, made-for-TV "separated at birth" story took on an unexpected, more sinister tone.

Tim Wardle's film, a CNN Films project, works on multiple levels -- from an underlying mystery to medical ethics to a rumination on the nature-vs.-nurture debate. Entertaining, thought-provoking and filled with surprises, it scores the equivalent of a cinematic hat trick.

For those who don't remember the story, the tale began in 1980, when a pair of 19-year-old college students, both adopted, were understandably shocked when they were mistaken for each other on campus. A third triplet saw the two in the newspaper, and their fame mushroomed, as dutifully documented by clips of the trio appearing together on morning programs and "Donahue."

At first, it was too good to resist -- guys separated at birth, who shared all sorts of traits and habits. The story created the 1980s version of a media feeding frenzy, which -- given the less-populated waters of the time -- offers its own delicious sub-thread.

The three, moreover, instantly started hanging out together, parlaying their new-found celebrity into the sort of fast-paced, club-going lifestyle that New York could offer at the time.

Soon enough, though, questions began surfacing about how and why the three -- Eddy, David and Bobby -- were separated. And the answers to that prove unsettling, taking the story in wholly unforeseen directions.

In the process, what began as a novelty act veers into the realm of tragedy. Wardle has left no stone unturned in chronicling this story, and even with the voluminous video record that's unearthed -- and extensive interviews with the brothers, adoptive parents, spouses and others -- some maddening gaps remain regarding what happened, and why.

Saying too much, frankly, risks spoiling the sharp turns that the narrative takes, but the result is sobering -- inviting contemplation about the very nature of what makes us who we are, as well as the horrifying notion that people might have exploited children, with no say in the matter.

Everyone is in the market now for sensational fact-based stories, but it's rare to run across one as enforced, with as many layers, as this one. In terms of a tale where the truth is not only stranger but more compelling than most fiction, "Three Identical Strangers" hits the jackpot.

"Three Identical Strangers" will open June 29 in the US.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to add that "Three Identical Strangers" is a CNN Films project.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 845108

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161242006
Mobile741961379
Madison53291732
Shelby38328368
Baldwin38074589
Tuscaloosa36017641
Montgomery34483781
Lee25557263
Calhoun22585518
Morgan22454406
Etowah20016517
Marshall18781316
Houston17729425
St. Clair16880358
Limestone16138218
Cullman16050303
Elmore15904294
Lauderdale14984306
Talladega14191299
DeKalb12971269
Walker12029380
Blount10715192
Autauga10517157
Jackson10161194
Coffee9415192
Colbert9341208
Dale9018191
Tallapoosa7255201
Russell707865
Chilton7018170
Escambia6955143
Covington6933195
Franklin6342108
Chambers5784142
Marion5403130
Dallas5285209
Pike5118109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4780110
Geneva4642136
Bibb434094
Barbour369480
Butler3434100
Marengo342393
Monroe337066
Randolph334367
Pickens333188
Fayette330085
Henry320666
Hale318389
Cherokee317763
Crenshaw260477
Washington257052
Cleburne254460
Lamar251453
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192862
Coosa185047
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152645
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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