Our Father is a documentary film directed by Lucie Jourdan and is about Donald Cline, a well-known fertility doctor in the 80s, and Jacoba Ballard and her half-a-dozen half-siblings’ fight to find out the truth behind their conception. The film has a runtime of 97 minutes.
Netflix describes the documentary film as:
After a woman’s at-home DNA test reveals multiple half-siblings, she discovers a shocking scheme involving donor sperm and a popular fertility doctor.
– Our Father review does not contain spoilers –
Donald Cline, a fertility doctor working out of Indianapolis in the 1970s and 80s, was one of the most respected doctors of the time in the field. At that point, the rule of thumb for artificial insemination was doctors used to use fresh sperm from either resident junior doctors or the husbands to then artificially inseminate the women. Cline’s success rate was phenomenal and so, obviously, people flocked to him to have their dreams of having a child met. However, unbeknownst to them, Cline was using his own sperm for inseminating these women without even letting them know of this.
At that point, there wasn’t any rule against what Cline did to these people and unfortunately, he never was indicted for his crimes. And even though there were no laws regarding this, it can’t be good to have your literal half-siblings walking around without your knowledge. What if two people have kids and later realise that they were half-siblings, to begin with? The implications of this are horrible to think about and the fact that Cline didn’t even spare a minute to wonder how this can affect his “children” is what’s shocking to me.
Either way, Our Father, for those who want to know about Cline and his gross behaviour, is narrated from the perspective of the Cline’s “children”, who go above and beyond to find the truth and seek justice. Imagine going on 23andMe to find maybe a sibling or two and coming up with 50 hits – that’s what we are working with here. The most shocking part, however, is the fact that Indiana law did not prohibit the physician from using his sperm on their unsuspecting patients. Now, there is something to say about consent here, but in a country that really doesn’t believe in women’s reproductive rights, that is a conversation for another time.
Produced by Blumhouse, Our Father is similar to most of the Netflix documentaries out there. With tons of dramatic recreations as someone talks about what happened to them in the background, the documentary movie feels a bit too much. Although it can never be as dramatic as the story itself, it’s still very in-your-face. I think it wouldn’t have worked well had the story not been this shocking, but for this particular movie, the drama works wonders.
The interesting aspects of the show are the interviews. So many people discuss what it was like to go to Cline, excited about the possibility of finally having a child, sure that it was a medical resident’s sperm that is being used and that your baby will have a maximum of 2 other half-siblings. Imagine the shock on the faces of the next generation when they find that they have around 50 half-siblings.
The fear is real and apparent and the lack of consent is horrendous. I felt the fears on the mothers’ faces when they described what it was like to sit in front of Cline as he appears to be very professional – as if with no ulterior motives and then to get to know the truth of his practices so many years down the line.
As I mentioned before, the movie is more from the perspective of Jacoba Ballard as well as several other of Cline’s “kids”. It’s horrifying to watch her go through this process of finding her half a dozen siblings, you feel heartbroken for her and everyone else. To have to get to know that everything that you’ve known for so long is a lie must be Earth-shattering.
As the movie goes deeper and the conspiracy theories start popping up left, right and centre, you also go down The Handmaid’s Tale rabbit hole with the rest of the siblings. You feel disgusted and the cruelty that Cline showed to these people is astounding, even after everyone got to know everything. I guess no one ever thought DNA would be a thing, but here we are.
The series does well bringing the terror of the situation forward. The music and the way the series is edited add to the horror of the situation. Personally, the dramatic re-enactments are a bit much, albeit the actor who plays Donald Cline is spot-on, and almost seems sensationalised. The music, however, goes well with the tone of the documentary in general and adds to the tension and intrigue.
Summing up: Our Father
In the end, Our Father is a sad, terrifying and cautionary tale about people and how abhorrent they can be. The God-complex can be severe in some people and the notion that there might be a cult involved in the mess is nothing short of a mystery novel. If you’re in the mood for true crime this weekend, this might be a quick and scary watch.
Our Father is streaming on Netflix.Instagram & Facebook to keep yourself updated with the latest news and reviews.