3 Stars – Wholesome
As they grow up into adulthood, identical twins have an additional hurdle in finding their own identity. Looking into the face of another human who looks exactly like you presents an additional challenge to achieve the sense of uniqueness that most of us desire. But even when separated at birth, identical siblings share a complexion of similarities as well as a sense of incompleteness without the other that catches our interest and curiosity. These and other themes are explored by novice director Dustin Marcellino in his first film The Identical.
Written by Howard Klausner who is known primarily for Space Cowboys, the plot is an obvious fictionalization of Elvis Presley’s life and the fact that he had a twin who was stillborn. This is reinforced in several ways from the decision to cast Elvis impersonator Blake Rayne as the lead character Ryan Wade who is the identical twin of the rock star Drexel Hemsley, to the style of music, dance and stage costumes.
However, in this fictional tale, the twins are born healthy but to desperately poor parents who can barely afford to provide for one baby. The twins’ father, William Hemsley (Brian Geraghty), seeks solace at a tent revival meeting and meets the minister Reece Wade (Ray Liotta) and his heart-broken wife Louise (Ashley Judd). Hearing their grief that Louise had miscarried again and request that the congregation pray for them, William feels that God wants him to give one of their twin boys to the minister and his wife to raise as their own. Although his wife Helen (Amanda Crew) does not want to do so, she finally agrees, gives up her son and so the twins are separated to be raised by two different sets of parents.
We won’t spoil what happens next or the spiritual, emotional and familial price that is paid by both couples. Nor will we explore how the two boys reflect one another’s gifts and interests or how their individual journeys demonstrate an emptiness and longing for the other. But it is a difficult journey that none of them could have predicted when they took that first step.
Woven within the tale are a variety of other messages, some pedantic and preachy with stereotypical depictions of pastors, musicians, agents and romance. One example of this is the preaching style of Reece, whose rigidity and authoritarian style reflects a 1930’s rural Christianity. This is shown again when he declares the Six-Day War of Israel as one of God’s miracles but also as a pronouncement to support Israel for religious reasons.
Ryan eventually comes to peace with his identity as an Identical and that is the message that all of us can gain. Though we may not have been taken from our parents or twin at birth, and most of us are not preacher’s kids with parental expectations to continue the pastoral call, and most of us do not have the ability to uncannily imitate a great musician, we all have our own journey to come to an understanding and acceptance of who we are.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
- Have you ever wondered if what others have told you about who you are is really true? Do you have a general sense of unease about being who others expect you to be? How can you resolve the difference between others’ expectations and being true to your own identity?
- Ryan’s ability to create his own music was rejected by his agent. Do you think he made the right choice? Why or why not?
- As Christians, these types of films can cause us to feel uneasy. The stereotypes reinforced by such a film sometimes cause more misunderstanding of our faith rather than giving a helpful or realistic depiction of believers. Do you think this film was helpful or not? Is your answer based on the inexperience of this cinematic team or this genre of film? Why do you answer as you do?