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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Twinsters

IntroductionTwinsters

With the holiday season in mind, I have a different film to present that does not focus on mental illness but offers plenty of psychological ‘food for thought’ on the topic of identical twins. Twinsters is a modern day tale set in the digital age that mirrors Shakespeare's 'A Comedy of Errors'. Two twins separated at birth and unknown to each other are reunited after a chance encounter online. What is so extraordinary is that this is a true story.

Twinsters is a documentary film directed by Samantha Futerman and Ryan Miyamoto, which was released in 2015. The film tells the incredible story of two young women in their mid-twenties, identical twins born in Korea, who were separated and given up for adoption at birth. One, Samantha Futerman, was raised by a family in America and the other, Anaïs Bordier, as the only child of a couple in France. Neither set of parents was aware that their adopted daughter was a twin. Through an accidental sighting on the Internet the pair are made aware of each other and the film follows them as they make written contact for the first time, see one another using Skype and later meet in person in London. With the twins telling their story direct to camera, the viewer is treated to an intimate sharing of the emotions involved in their extraordinary experience.


The Film

Twinsters opens with Sam detailing the series of events that started early in 2013 when she received a message via social media from a stranger asking her to contact his friend Anaïs, after seeing a YouTube video in which Sam had appeared. It seemed that she had a ‘double’ somewhere in the world that looked exactly like she did. The direct messaging between Sam and Anaïs began with tentative enquiries about their date and location of birth and it is significant to note that neither had any information about having been born a twin. The moment that they both see each other for the first time over the Internet via webcam is incredibly touching. Very quickly they feel a strong desire to meet each other face to face. Before this takes place they both agree to a DNA test to clarify the exact nature of their relationship. The initial meeting takes place in London where Anaïs is a fashion student. It is during this visit that they receive the result of their DNA test, which confirms that they are indeed identical twins. Neither of them was in any doubt.

After both families have also met, Anaïs visits Sam in Los Angeles to sample her lifestyle and they both attend the California Twin Studies Institute for physical and psychological testing. The twins start to learn more about each other and the different views they hold about being adopted. It seems that Anaïs has struggled more with this than Sam, who sets out to give her twin a more favourable view of their predicament. With this in mind, Sam persuades Anaïs to travel with her to Seoul to attend a conference for Korean adoptees. There they seek more information about their birth mother using contacts that Sam had previously made when researching her origins. However, the two adoption agencies involved inform them that their birth mother is unable to acknowledge that she had given birth to twins or that she had ever given any children away for adoption. Despite this disappointment, Sam and Anaïs are able to meet with the two foster mothers who cared for them during their first months of life. This is both a moving and a poignant experience for the twins but especially for Anaïs, who had constructed a personal narrative of abandonment in the early months of her life stating that she was really only born when her French parents took her home. As Sam and Anaïs part at the airport in Korea, the film leaves us wondering how the twins will manage to maintain their newly developed and incredibly close bond whilst living in two different continents. Their pain at this separation is palpable.

Relevance to the Field of Mental Health

Twinsters presents a fascinating account of Sam and Anais’ unknown twinship as it is discovered. It offers the opportunity to consider the role of ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ in the shaping of their personalities. Both are highly creative individuals who are working in fashion design and acting respectively. The contrast between the upbringing of Sam, who was raised in an American family with two older brothers, the biological sons of her adoptive parents and Anaïs, who was the only child of her French parents, is touched on. Always describing herself as feeling ‘lonely’, Anaïs is revealed as scoring much higher on the trait of moodiness than Sam when tested at the California Twin Studies Institute. In contrast, Sam scores higher on extraversion than Anaïs. Apart from these differences their psychological test results appear to be almost identical, as do the basic physical parameters such as height and weight.

This is a hugely enjoyable documentary telling an incredible story that could only have happened in the Internet age. It invites the viewer to imagine what the main protagonists may be feeling as their emotional journey unfolds and such empathic experiences are always useful for those of us working in the field of mental health. But the film also challenges the viewer to contemplate how we might feel if we suddenly discovered an unknown duplicate of ourselves living somewhere else in the world.

Season’s Greetings to all of my readers!


• More information about Twinsters can be found at IMDB, and a short trailer is available on the film’s Facebook page.

Twinsters is currently available for streaming on Netflix in the UK or to rent or buy on iTunes. It can also be purchased on DVD (Region 1 only) from amazon.co.uk.

• Minds on Film is written by Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Joyce Almeida


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About this blog

 

Minds on Film is a monthly blog that explores psychiatric conditions and mental health issues as portrayed in a selection of readily available films.

Please note that this blog may contain plot spoilers. Any views expressed are purely my own.

Dr Joyce Almeida

Dr Almeida is a consultant
psychiatrist working in the private sector in the UK.

 


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