The Mantle brothers are identical twins, but one is more confident than the other. He is the one who goes out and meets women, passing them to his brother (without their knowledge) when he tires of them. But when his shy brother falls in love, things go horribly wrong.
Based on a tabloid headline ('Twin Docs Found Dead in Posh Pad'), this icy drama could almost play as a sophisticated farce, and the sequence in which Genevieve Bujold confronts the Mantle twins in a restaurant, tumbling to the fact that the man she has been having an affair with is actually two people, marvellously skirts the ridiculous and the chilling.
It’s not a comedy but an uncompromised and uncompromising film which contains moments of horror and physicality far more shattering than the goriest special effects gimmick. It deals with questions of identity, the mystique of surgery, and male inability to come to terms with the mysterious folds of women's minds and bodies. In the home stretch, it's a profoundly depressing, yet deeply moving, study in addiction and degradation.
With an unhappy outcome a foregone conclusion, it's astonishing that the film is as suspenseful as it is as Beverly becomes a drug addict and Elliot follows him into hell, perhaps to rescue him, perhaps to join him. The special effects are invisible, with Jeremy Irons doing far more to create the illusion of duality than any optical splicing and the direction is remarkably tactful and assured.
David Cronenberg gets away from the horror/science fiction genre in which he had established his style, presenting the inhuman condition without recourse (one slightly too blatant dream sequence apart) to flesh-stretching special effects, borrowings from earlier horror films and the trappings of conventional melodrama.
Irons gives two virtuoso performances as the brothers, while Cronenberg proves again that few can match his originality or vision