Three Identical Strangers

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Three Identical Strangers

The first half of Three Identical Strangers will delight you – no doubt of that. The second will take you to far darker places and send you out with a head full of unanswered questions. Credit director Tim Wardle with having the courage to tackle a true story that throws a complex issue into the public discussion before the elements are even clear.

There’s great fun to be had as we watch Robert, Eddy, and David as they discover they are identical triplets. Born in 1980, they are 19 when we meet them and they find each other. We smile at their fun as they discover the exactness of their physical movements and voice tones. We watch in pleasure as they start a restaurant named “Triplets.” And then we join in the director’s confusion as he discovers that the Louise Wise Services adoption agency – working with Dr. Peter Neubauer, a German psychiatrist, never told the adopting couples that each of their new sons was one of triplets.

Dr. Neubauer – who died in 2008 was studying the three in secrecy and had sealed all his documents at Yale where no one can see them until 2066. The three boys, now adult men, are dealing with the unsettling certainty that for all their lives they have been objects of an organized secret study run by psychiatrist Dr. Peter Neubauer in partnership with the Louise Wise Services Adoption Agency.

When the triplets, who have grown happily from teenagers to adulthood, discover this dark truth, they are wrapped in confusion. Who did this? Why weren’t they ever told they were triplets? Their story is stored at Yale?

In an effort to unravel the secret cooperation between the psychiatrist and the adoption agency, director Tim Wardle introduces us to various witnesses and principals. Sadly, most of that ends in confusion for the audience. We meet the adoptive mothers who knew nothing of the plot. What did the agency tell them? We meet the odd birth mother and the wives of the triplets. Who is Neubauer? He is dead.

We meet the woman who worked for Dr. Neubauer. As we wrestle with the questions each introduction raises, resentment grows at the secret study that has affected the personal lives of so many people. As all that unfolds, we begin to see the cruelty and violation of human rights inflicted by Neubauer and the adoption agency.

What started as an exploration of the perennial dilemma of nature vs. nurture was rooted in the cruelty of a study by a professional who violated a whole string of moral and legal rules in secret. You will develop your own theory of why Dr. Neubauer secured the future of his work in 66 boxes at Yale where it would be safe until everyone is dead, including himself. The degree to which biology is, and is not, destiny is riveting. The cruelty of one man who hurt so many while studying that question is tragic.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Three Identical Strangers
Word Count : 501
Running Time: 1:36
Rating : PG-13
Date : July 22, 2018

This review was posted on July 22, 2018, in Documentary.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

If you think Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is aimed only at children, think again. Audience conversations after showings of this film are studded with adults who are stunned by its relevance to their own lives right now in the present. It is a lovely biography of a man who years ago wanted to talk with children to help them discover who they really were in a world where the opinion of their peers often prevented exactly that. This documentary is a compelling study of Fred Rogers himself as well as a look at his influence on children. Add to that the relevance of his questions to all ages.

In 1967, Rogers found he could reach children through the new medium of television. He was not looking for TV success; he was looking at the new medium as a path to children in their young confusion in a way that would help them learn who they actually were inside, not who they were in relation to their peer groups. According to people who knew him and worked with him, Rogers was being his own self to a degree that made children talk openly. All who spoke here said he had not an ounce of wanting TV celebrity. He looked at his exposure only to the degree it helped him reach children. He reached them through 900 television shows.

The movie is filled with memorable scenes. A crippled young boy in a wheel chair in a visit with Rogers turns up years later as a confident adult, still wheelchair bound. He uses a film of Robert Kennedy’s assassination to answer one child’s question, “What is assassination?”
He doesn’t explain himself or his goals; he answers the questions that come from the children who trust him, and he uses deep concepts in simple words. Gently, he makes them understand they don’t have to do anything that troubles them to make people like them. How about that for all of us?

Silence is Rogers’ delight and as we watch him with children, we understand it was his way of reaching them. He stepped into their lives gently, and they began to talk. Their connection with each other is so unforced, so real, that many in the audience begin to translate Roger’s quiet wisdom into a lesson for themselves. He is a very different person from other TV personalities. He is so much himself, so real, that the audience absorbs his nature and comes out of the theater applying it to all ages.

The wide impact of this film may well be rooted in the anger that has rolled over our society right now, long after Fred Rogers’ death. Why is everyone so unable to let others believe what they want without wrapping it all in rage? Why are we so divided and so angry? Have we all become children again reacting so strongly to each other? This portrait of a fine man is a perfect message for its time.

Film Critic: Joan Ellis
Film Title: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Word Count: 494
Running Time: 1:34
Rating: PG-13
Date: July 15, 2018