Film Review: Bound by Flesh

A stirring documentary about an exploited pair of Siamese twins who attained notoriety and suffered tragically.

Daisy and Violet were “cash cows.” Two sisters who were conjoined twins at birth, the Hilton sisters were sideshow sensations in the early years of the 20th century. The compelling documentary Bound by Flesh is their tragic life story.

Long before today's TV reality shows, which attract audiences obsessed with the grotesque, the Siamese twins were displayed in vaudeville shows (with such luminaries as Charlie Chaplin), pubs and every tawdry venue their unscrupulous managers could solicit.

In telling their remarkable story, filmmaker Leslie Zemeckis has not only etched a heart-wrenching portrait of their individual and dual misfortunes, she has subtly illuminated the general public's dark fascination with “freaks.” In this intelligent and well-constructed document, Zemeckis expertly blends up-close, personal depictions of the twins—they were pretty and demurely appealing—but she augments their life and plight via early footage and historical artifact.

Scrupulously researched from a wide array of sources (such as the Circus Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin), Bound by Flesh mesmerizes with its full-fleshed portrait of the two gentle souls confined to a life of outrageous spectacle. Indicative of the emerging media's fascination, they were included in Tod Browning's Freaks, as well as exploited in the 1950s’ notorious Chained for Life.

Told with crisp clarity and buttressed by compassion, Bound by Flesh is a masterful movie, certain to touch the hearts of all audiences.

The Hollywood Reporter

Click here for cast & crew information.