MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Tim Wardle. Documentary.
Everyone deserves to be treated as an individual person of sacred worth, but we live in a world that often uses labels and stereotypes to steal this uniqueness away from us. Demographically, we are first identified according to the year of our birth and then shuffled into categories related to chronological age. But in the eyes of God we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). That is something that most of us ponder every day as we struggle to love our neighbor as ourselves.
As Three Identical Strangers begins, Bobby Shafrin shares his experience of beginning his freshman year in 1980 at a community college and being greeted and hugged by students who seemed to know him already. When they began to call him “Eddy”, Bobby realized that there was a doppelgänger somewhere. A friend of Bobby’s acknowledged the uncanny resemblance; the two of them made a late-night 2-hour drive to visit Eddy Galland, who had dropped out of college and was living with his parents. As they shared their stories (including their adoption into loving families and date of birth) it soon became apparent that they must be identical twins, separated and placed in different homes by the adoption agency.
After their story made the news, a third brother, David Kellman, contacted them. They now realized that they were identical triplets, placed into different homes after birth. The three brothers hit it off instantly, enjoying not only their physical similarities, but their similar taste in cigarettes, mannerisms, and women. This was catnip for the media, and the brothers appeared on talk shows, magazines and newspapers for their 15 minutes of fame (well, actually, five minutes apiece, doing the math). They laughed alike, they walked alike, at times they even talked alike – you could lose your mind!
But what begins as a lighthearted discovery soon turns into a story with filled with strange undercurrents and deeper questions for not only the brothers but their adoptive families and spouses. I have known many adopted children and I understand how hard it is to find self-worth in those circumstances. I am also a triplet (with two sisters, so don’t worry!) in a family of seven kids, so I know how challenging it is to feel good about yourself in a large family setting. Three Identical Strangers is a compassionate meditation about how complicated and essential family identity can be, and also an impassioned plea for institutions to handle adoptions with care.
As Christians, we are adopted into the family of God and encouraged to invite all people to join us. The church is often guilty of handling this adoption rather poorly, setting up requirements to replace grace. Three Identical Strangers is a beautiful reminder that most families make things up as they go along, but that love somehow is able to heal our brokenness and surmount our missteps. I challenge any viewer to leave Three Identical Strangers unchanged.
Four halos: An incredible story that is uplifting and upsetting, raising many provocative discussions about families – both biological and adoptive.
One pitchfork: Some light mild swearing; honest depiction of immature responses to fame, including excessive partying.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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