In a summer filled with superheroes, sequels, and ABBA sing-alongs, the new documentary Three Identical Strangers is a breath of fresh air. But, it’s also a bizarre story that will have you reaching for the popcorn. Honestly, it’s more thrilling than anything you’ll see Tom Cruise do in the new Mission: Impossible, which is hard to believe, since that guy is hanging off of buildings and helicopters. But if you need proof, just ask the internet why this true story of triplets separated at birth has everyone talking.
According to USA Today, the doc — which opens in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on June 29 before expanding its release — looks at Robert Shafran, who in 1980 showed up for his first day at community college and was mistaken for another student, Eddy Galland. Shafran decided to reach out to Galland only to find out that the two were identical twins who had been adopted by different families.
That’s an amazing story all on its own, but it gets even more amazing after David Kellman saw a story about the twins and thought he also bared a striking resemblance to the two men. Turns out, he was their triplet who had also been adopted. Now, the men are getting to share their incredible story with the world thanks to director Tim Wardle, who isn’t surprised the internet has taken a liking to his new project.
"I think it's one of the diminishing number of stories that exist in this pre-internet era where the people are still alive to talk about what happened, but it’s not been widely circulated," Wardle told USA Today. "Now, it would be viral."
What stands out about this documentary is that it isn’t a true crime story, which has become the internet’s favorite kind of doc. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some mystery involved. “I wouldn’t believe this story if someone else were telling it,” one of the brothers says in the trailer. “But it’s true, every word of it.”
Wardle isn’t the first to try and make a film about the brothers; he’s just the first one to succeed. Previous attempts, which included three different networks trying to make documentaries in the ’80s and ’90s, were, according to Wardle, shot down by the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services. The director claims that the board is responsible for the brothers' separation, which ultimately takes a toll on them.
In a statement to the Huffington Post, the board denied the accusation, issuing the following statement: “We do not endorse the Neubauer study, and we deeply regret that it took place. We recognize the great courage of the individuals who participated in the film, and we are appreciative that this film has created an opportunity for a public discourse about the study.”
Like Three Identical Strangers, last year’s documentary The Twinning Reaction also looks at the lasting effects of experiment, which you’ll have to see to believe. Even then, though, you might have trouble wrapping your head around this very true and very unusual story.
Correction: An earlier version of this story claimed the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services was responsible for the brothers' separation and impeded the production of documentaries about the brothers. We have updated the story with a statement from the Jewish Board.