Penny (Michele Hicks), working as a prostitute, is called to a room in a seedy hotel where she finds her client is a pair of adult conjoined twins, Blake and Francis Falls (played by identical but not conjoined twins, Mark and Michael Polish, who also co-wrote the screenplay). Shocked, she flees but later returns and, when she learns that one of the twins is ill, calls a doctor friend of hers to examine them. She cares for the twins and they become friends. At Halloween, "the only night of the year they [can pass for] normal," she takes them to a party and then back to her apartment where she and Blake almost make love while Francis, evidently the weaker twin, is sleeping.

She tells her lawyer/pimp about the twins, and he tries to persuade them to sell him their story (which he imagines in terms of separation: "The greatest divorce of all time: not who gets the kid but who gets the kidney . . . "). Offended by her betrayal, they return to their hotel room, and, apparently for the first time, the twins fight. Blake wants to get away from his brother.

The next morning Francis is ill once more, and the twins are hospitalized. Michele visits them and learns that they are dying. Francis's heart is becoming weaker, straining Blake's, and the only way to save Blake will be by separating them. Francis cannot survive separation. Penny tracks down their mother (Lesley Ann Warren), who gave them up for adoption at birth. She visits them in hospital. It emerges that Penny herself has a "retarded" child who is being raised by others. Francis's heart fails, and the twins are taken to the operating room.

Later, Penny tracks Blake down where he is now living alone in the trailer where the twins had lived before, as circus performers. The film ends with Blake, now a man with one arm and one functioning leg, telling Penny that the "story of me is over," but also that stories continue after sad endings. What makes an ending sad, he tells her, is the knowledge that the storyteller is continuing without you.


Although set in a present-day American city (the Falls twins stay in a hotel on Idaho Avenue, hence the film's title), this film has the quality of a fable. It is aesthetically lovely, even in squalid settings such as the twins' hotel room. The twins wear exquisitely tailored three-legged suits, and Penny's own physical beauty emerges increasingly as her relationship with the twins becomes more complex and compassionate.

The film attempts to aestheticize abnormality without objectifying it. In one scene, after the Halloween party, Penny asks Blake about loneliness while she paints the toenails of the fourth, hypotrophic foot shared by the twins. The twins' past, as a guitar-playing country music duo in a kind of traveling "freak show," is viewed with ambivalent nostalgia. One might argue that the film is not about conjoined twins at all, in the literal sense, but about the apprehension of queerness in all its forms. Abnormality, identity, and desire are beautifully integrated and complicated in the central Halloween sequence.

Penny's abandonment of her own child is not resolved, though her caring for the twins and her return to Blake signify a change in her attitude, and the story implies (along with her apparent rehabilitation from prostitute to waitress) a trajectory towards accepting motherhood. The film's symbolism is somewhat heavy-handed at times, but perhaps this is acceptable in a fable. Blake's final discussion of "sad endings" and of autobiographies, especially but not only those of twins, provides thought-provoking material for a discussion of narrative and identity.

Finally, the film works well as a literal meditation on the ethics of surgically separating conjoined twins. Because the twins are adult, the implications of sacrificing the weaker twin to increase the survival chances of the stronger are played out in ways that can be elided when the patients are newborn and voiceless. Blake's need to be apart is poignantly balanced against Francis's need to survive, and against both brothers' ambivalent sense that, as a unified though two-minded body, they are one individual already.

Primary Source

Sony Pictures Classics