Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family


This was the official website for the 2005 documentary Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family.
This documentary follows nine years in the lives of a gay couple and the woman they invited to share their relationship.

Content is from the site's archived pages and other outside sources.

A Documentary Feature
Running Time: 97 minutes
Rating: Not Rated

Trinogamous? Mariage-a-trois? Monogamy, but with more than one person? How does one talk about the unusual relationship between Sam, Samantha and Steven? After all, in Three of Hearts this is one of those stories you WILL want to talk about.

In his early twenties, Sam Cagnina, the oldest son of a mafia hit man, meets Steven, a handsome 19-year old college student and they fall in love. Soon Sam, charisma and energy to spare, gets an idea. Hey, wouldnt it be great to bring a woman into the relationship!? Steven, being an easygoing guy, agrees. They spend the next seven years dating and looking for a woman they could both fall in love with who would agree to live in a trio relationship.

They know they have found that special someone else when they meet Samantha, a Toronto ex-pat struggling as an actress in New York City. Sam meets Samantha, and they fall in love. Samantha meets Steven and they fall in love too. The trio, as they are affectionately called, begin their journey.

We catch up with Sam, Samantha and Steven nine years later. They are going to have a baby; a baby about whom one thing seems certain: he/she will have an S name. Three of Hearts explores this unique union as they negotiate their living arrangements, have children and open one of the hottest wellness centers in New York.

Of course you want to know about their families and their friends and, we'd guess, about the sex. Jam-packed with incident it is often hilarious but once accustomed to its more sensational elements, we begin to see this film for what it is, a rather remarkable journey of self-discovery for this threesome and for those of us with whom theyve shared their lives. Now, what constitution is ready for this one!?




As the director of the film, my hope was always that Sam, Steven, and Samanthas courage in sharing their story and letting us into their lives for eight years would resonate on a deep level for audiences around the world. And I have been pleased to find that whatever audiences think about the film, it often causes them to question their own lives to the point of sharing some profound truths about themselves. My producers, editor and I are grateful for that because our hope was always to provoke conversation. We believe the real story starts when the end credits begin and people go home to talk about themselves, identity, family, love, and sexuality.

Let me share an anecdote from a festival programmer: she revealed that Three of Hearts was the most talked about film of all the films they screened. The programmers found themselves engaged in intense conversation and controversy, and for that reason alone they wanted to invite the film to their festival.

Our hope with introducing this section is for audiences to have a place to speak directly to our characters and for people to share their stories, find information and have the opportunity to ask questions to a known relationship expert if desired. We thank you for using this site and we hope you take the time to let a friend know about our film and this website.



We began filming Three of Hearts in August 1996, the night of Samanthas 30th birthday party. When I got home from the first night of filming my boyfriend at the time, and later husband David Friedson told me that the senate had passed the Defense of Marriage Act that day, defining marriage for purposes of federal law as the legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife. David pointed out that the love story I had elected to tell was highly political. And as we premiered in Toronto, the whole issue was exploding in San Francisco, Massachusetts and around the country. So even though our film is not overtly political, we take pride in the fact that it does have political overtones.

We thank Sam Cagnina, Samantha Singh and Steven Margolin for their courage in sharing with us eight years of their journey.

Rotten Tomatoes Reviews



December 2, 2005 | Rating: 3/4
John McMurtrie
San Francisco ChronicleTop Critic

An often tender and revealing documentary.

Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family Documentary. Directed by Susan Kaplan. (Not rated. 97 minutes. At the Castro.)

Never mind same-sex marriage -- what would really enliven our national political debate is "trinogamy." That's one of the inventive terms used to describe the unusual relationship shared by three New Yorkers in "Three of Hearts," an often tender and revealing documentary.

Sam and Steven meet in college and fall in love. Several years into their relationship, Sam suggests that they find a woman to share in their happiness. Each man has dated women in the past, and each is giddy about the idea of living out a fantasy.

After some failed attempts at assembling a trio -- Sam and Steven are looking for a stable relationship, not a casual, sex-only arrangement -- they come across Samantha. She's young, attractive and bright and has no qualms about sharing a bed with two men (quite the opposite).

Sam, Samantha and Steven live happily together for years and push the boundaries of fairy-tale cuteness by having a child named Siena. Determining paternity provides for some of the film's humor: "Well, you know, if there's no hair, we know who it is," Samantha cracks, teasing Sam about his bald pate. The issue has its more serious side, as the three discover that there can be, legally speaking, only two parents.

Living as a threesome poses other problems. Samantha's parents believe their daughter to be married to Sam -- until the day Steven accidentally answers a phone that's reserved for calls from -- don't pick that up! -- Mom and Dad.

Susan Kaplan's simply told film captures the everyday joys shared by Sam, Samantha and Steven (but some of the cheesy scoring doesn't help). The three complement one another in character, and even though they work together at their own wellness center, they don't seem to fight 33 percent more than your average American couple.

However, even trinogamous relationships have their seven-year itches, and things can get ugly between any lovers, no matter how many are involved. On the other hand, of course, it's good while it lasts. "Three of Hearts" celebrates that goodness and makes it fun viewing for the whole family -- or at least Mom, Dad and Dad.

-- Advisory: This film contains adult language.T


March 1, 2007
Doris Toumarkine
Film Journal International

It had to happen: the documentary as mesmerizing reality show and juicy soap opera combined with enough relevance, skillful storytelling, polish and compelling subjects to make it big-screen-worthy. Such is Susan Kaplan's wonderful Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family, featuring three Manhattanites who really believed that they could live together and happily ever after as husband and husband and wife.

Besides a subject that deserves and commands attention, filmmaker Kaplan was blessed with two other sine qua nons: total access to the trio and plentiful secondary source material (loads of home movies, photos, etc.).

Sam, an outgoing Italian-American, and Steven, a nice Jewish boy, meet while still young, fall in love and become another New York gay couple, it would seem. But soon, prodded by Sam, they agree that bringing a female into the relationship and household would be a good thing. They eventually find Samantha, an attractive, Canadian-born struggling actress who is cool with the idea. The three live together, the men share Samantha (though details are sparse on exact arrangements) and Samantha eventually bears them a child. Another follows, but trouble brews.

Thanks to the openness of the three principals-seen over the many years they are together-and the wealth of filmed material about their families, Three of Hearts offers rich detail and background. Sam's family is colorful and warm, although his dad is an unrepentant criminal. Steven comes from a nice, smack-in-the-middle-class Jewish family, and Samantha is one of three sisters in an archetypal proper, upwardly mobile and assimilated immigrant family of Indian descent.

The arrangement the three embrace works for years until career (a thriving wellness center they found), parenthood and success take their toll. Stress pays a visit, and trips to therapists increase. Can lawyers be in the cards?

Not all the humor works as intended. The idea that all three were Batman fans until 2 of their identical Batman Begins t shirts get damaged in the wash leading to an argument starts out funny but wanders into the absurd. Praying to Batman for guidance over ownership of shirts? Scheduling who gets to wear the undamaged shirt when they could have easily purchased new ones online? Even Batman is cringing at this scene!

That Three of Hearts takes a surprising, sudden turn certainly doesn't hurt matters. That the film's threesome stayed together as long as they did demands examination, as does any notion that they shouldn't have gotten together in the first place. The doc, with its appealing characters and strange journey, should have moviegoers marching down the aisles and, afterwards, wondering: Who made up those sacrosanct marriage rules anyway?

-Doris Toumarkine




 Super Reviewer John B
**** June 18, 2013
You are the ultimate voyeur in this three attempt to have a family with three parents and an uneasy balancing act between two partners. You had to know that it would go off the rails but it is nonetheless something to behold.


Zai 'Dylan' L
****  ½April 27, 2009
Loved it, but really sad


Roxanne R
**** March 12, 2009
What an amazing 8 years of footage for this documentary! They follow the lives of three people (two men and one woman) who decide to live together! In his early 20's, Sam Cagnina, the oldest son of a mafia hit man, meets Steven, a good looking 19 year old college student and they fall in love. They spend the next seven years looking for a woman they could both fall in love with..then they find that special someone in Samantha, a struggling actress, who falls in love with one of them and agrees to live with them in a trio relationship. You can't miss this remarkable true story that explores one unique family as they negotiate their living arrangements, have children and open one of the hottest wellness centers in New York City! With amazingly candid discussions about love, sex and partnership, the trio turns to the camera and reveals every aspect of their lives to both the audience and eventually to themselves. Added to my private collection!



John B
***½ January 2, 2009
its an interesting story, but you can pretty much get the picture from the trailer.


Ralph R
April 16, 2008
Postmodern family is an oxymoron, for postmodernists do not believe in families or truth. Therefore, this is a breakdown in ideas. At best, it can be a postmodern attempt at family, but that involves definition. Others definition of family is different. They cannot both be right. Hold on, under postmodernism, they can be. Therefore, there is no such thing as family. Under postmodernism, I am right, and this people are right. Therefore, there is no family. What a wack movie idea! I am already confused.


Shalena B
***** December 21, 2007
I loved this movie...mostly because it gave other options then the norm for relationships and also the 3 people are really interesting and complex..a real thinking movie


Jessie M **** ½December 4, 2007
My only complaint about this is that it wasn't longer, really. Well done, respectful, awesome documentary. Wish there was more.


Ritch L
 **** November 11, 2007
This movie is like...a freakin revolution.


Jessie K
*****September 21, 2007
I really loved this movie. It is the perfect example of how "normal" abnormal is.


Artemis R
****½ August 9, 2007
Definitely worth watching. This is a picture of the most "normal" family ever--- except it happens to be a marriage of three. Catergorize under "make you think" movies. Lots of parts can be related to, even if you have only been involved in "mainstream" types of relationships.


EdenEye6 Gia B
***½ June 28, 2007
This documentary is about the relationship between 2 men and 1 woman who are married to each other. They live together, they love eachother and they have children together. This lifestyle like no other is represented in this film. There are ups and downs, extreme downs like any other relationship. It is interesting to see how this all works and how each member feels. I would recommend this film to anybody with an open mind and curiousity.

Katie W
***** June 19, 2007
This is an amazing documentary about what happens when you experiment in your twenties...and stick with it for over a decade. It is so amazing. I just watched it on Bravo. I was totally planning to go to sleep, but I got sucked in. You will fall in love with Sam, Samantha, and Steven...and at some point hate one of them. All I can say is the 91% of people who are "not interested" really need to open their mind and realize that this documentary is not about sex. It is about love and life and all the joy and heartache that go along with them. It has to be said again: This film is amazing. Rent it now.