In Reviews

May 23rd, 2022




Our Father is a chilling and revealing documentary about the families forever affected by Donald Cline, a sperm doctor in Indiana who appears to be the biological father of dozens of his patients’ children. Several of the women who sought help from Cline, when they found themselves unable to conceive, were interviewed. Some of their offspring, who completed DNA tests confirming they have multiple siblings as a result of Cline’s sperm, are also given opportunities to tell their stories. Not surprisingly, these are some of the most emotionally affecting moments in the film.

Having never experienced fertility issues or childbirth myself it was a bit unclear during the film’s early scenes what the larger implications of the doctor’s actions were. However, it is a credit to director Lucie Jourdan and her approach of slowly revealing the layers of trauma and betrayal that makes the film all the more disturbing to anyone whether they’ve had children or not.

Through effective on screen testimonies, these women discuss how they believed the doctor was providing proper care but are now devastated at having been violated when they were young and desperate. The film uses recreations of the original medical setting along with actors playing the younger versions of the patients along with Cline. Also used are shots which suggest Cline’s self-pleasure took place just steps away from where these women were waiting for insemination. The children born out of the doctor’s serious misdeeds are now struggling with the realities of their conceptions and the shock of finding out that the fathers they believed were their own were not. Several give tearful interviews expressing the betrayal they have felt within their families.

Other long-term effects touched upon briefly, but with no less worrisome concerns, are the similarities in long-term health issues by many of the siblings. Did this doctor breed dozens of children and pass on his own genetic disorders? Most of the siblings live in a relatively close geographic area, also suggesting the possibility that they could have easily gotten involved with each other without prior knowledge of their relationship ties.

The film also spends a good amount of time presenting the irony of Cline’s high standing within his local religious community. There is even a suggestion that Cline may have been committing his acts with the intent of breeding a race of blonde-haired, blue-eyed children that could continue white dominance in our country. This speculation of Cline’s motives is not confirmed but it does pose a provocative question as we are also provided with the actual numbers (and counting) of children partially created by this man as well as the many other doctors in the U.S. that have been accused of the same act. Are these doctors willingly disregarding their patients wishes because they believe the Bible is telling them they must save the White race?

The implications build throughout the film as Jourdan indirectly proposes that we must question the practices of trusted members of the medical profession, legal system, and religious centers. Should we rightfully be losing faith in these institutions? The answer seems clear throughout Our Father but it’s a slippery slope that has been created by overzealous and egotistical doctors such as Cline. What is clear is that people in positions of power continue to abuse institutions that we should trust.

If I had any quibbles with the film it is that the many recreations of the various situations explored leave it hard to tell how much we can trust some of the images we are seeing. However, this approach is ultimately effective in its illustration of this story which might pack less of an emotional punch without the recreations. The film also offers plenty of interviews by not only the victims but also colleagues of the doctor and at least one member of the news media who actively reported on what was happening in this Indiana community. Overall, Our Father is an eye-opening and expertly crafted film, which continues the hot streak of true-crime and ripped from the headlines documentaries at Netflix. A story such as this could easily impact the multiple layers within our culture, shaking the moral and philosophical questions that swirl around in the heads of various couples, especially those with the need to expand their families. After a documentary like this, the medical practitioners from whom they seek guidance and the possible resolution to their issues, will now be met with extra caution.



Written by: Dan Pal

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