reader comments 2 with 2 posters participating, including story author Share this story Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Reddit The trailer for Three Identical Strangers Warning: This review contains mild spoilers. However, inevitably the comment thread will contain medium, maybe even hot, spoilers. Filmmaker Tim Wardle released it in 2018, but the…
Filmmaker Tim Wardle released it in 2018, but the documentary Three Identical Strangerfeels appropriately of its ’80s era. Yes, it has the outfits and the crappy cars, but the film’s first hour in particular has the kind of goofy buddy-movie feel that feels so cozy, you’d swear it was ripped out of fiction likeGooniesorGhostbusters.
These three guys just shy of 20—Bobby, David, and Eddy—recount their perspective on a gradually unraveling mystery involving each of them. It starts when Bobby goes to his first day of community college, and everyone seems to greet him as if they’re old best friends. Then, Eddy’s actual best friend recognizes the confusion on this seemingly familiar face and asks: you don’t have a relative named Eddy, do you?
Maybe you see where this is going and can already imagine theheadlines (orDonahue or Today Showappearances). But Three Identical Stranger continues toplay theaterstoday—and willair on CNNthis Saturday, February 2—because the film has so much more to offer than a feel-good tale of lost siblings serendipitously finding each other. The documentary doesn’t hide any supernatural elements like Goonies or Ghostbusters, but something otherworldly may or may not be happening.
Many in the film press have rightly noted 2018 represented a banner year for documentaries—films like Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and RBG had legitimate theatrical runs, and festival fare like Science Fair and Who Is Arthur Chu? delighted nerds like us. But it remains hard to fathom how Three Identical Strangers fell short of the Best Documentary Oscar field despite the stiff competition. This documentary has everything you’d want from the form: likable and engaging main characters, unexpected shifts in tone and story, genuine moments of emotion and surprise, and a conclusion that stays on a viewer’s mind long after the final sequence. How on Earth did this happen and why isn’t this info everywhere? This verging-on-too-wild-to-be-true story feels so much like a well-done mystery, agenuinely scripted remakeis already progress.
Discussing the film’s larger plot with anyone who hasn’t seen it would ruinThree Identical Strangers’ most effective device—it creates this sensation, after a half hour or so, where you think to yourself, “This is kind of charming. Long lost brothers find each other, love each other, open a cheesy NYC restaurant together. But wait, why is this a full-length documentary instead of a Web short?” The triplets increasingly go the ’80s equivalent of viral, sure, but seeing that unfold is not the aspect of this film that quite frankly may never occur again. What comes next, well, a certain section of the Ars Technica’s staff woulddefinitely have some feelings.
If you like feel-good family romps, the ’80s as an aesthetic, establishments as opposition, and stories that immediately send you down Internet reading rabbit holes for several hours (to get you started:about a key non-triplet,about the central bit of information,about the triplets today, andabout where everything stands today), take the leap of film critic faith. Three Identical Strangers is best experienced blind, but be sure to have a few colleagues (or commenters) to discuss it with soon after.
Listing image by Tim Wardle / NEON Films