Our Father ⭐️⭐️1/2 Review by Andrea Carnevali
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. The latest true crime documentary on Netflix.
This is the latest entry in the ever-expanding list of real-crime documentaries that Netflix is throwing at us pretty much weekly.
This one is produced by the same Emmy-winning producer (Jason Blum) who had been at the helm of the extraordinary The Jinx, from 2015. (Possibly my favourite documentary of this kind, I highly recommend it to anyone).
Our Father tells the horrible true story of fertility doctor Doctor Cline, who used his own sperm to artificially inseminate a series of women for over 20 years between the 1970s and 80s, without their knowledge or consent, instead of using the donor sperm which had been requested.
The documentary does some things right, one of which is the decision tell the story from the point of view of some the victims and to focus on their pain after the shocking discovery. It’s terrifying to learn Dr Cline is the biological father of at least 94 children.
Unfortunately Our Father doesn’t seem to go much beyond the headlines news and after a while I couldn’t help noticing the disconnect between the story itself and the rather cheap, heavy-handed and overall rather unimaginative way the story was being presented.
Whilst I thought it was a wise choice to give a voice to the victims, after a while, I’m sorry to say, it all became a bit repetitive and comments like “when I found out my heart sunk” started to lose their impact and the whole thing began to appear morbid for its own sake, manipulative and actually a little bit exploitive too.
All of this was not helped by some tacky reconstructions and re-enactments (probably the worst aspect of the film), intercut with real recordings and talking heads. The horror-like music score which run throughout feels as if the film-maker couldn’t trust the strength of story itself and crucially us, the audience.
In the end the film ends up looking more like one of those cheap products often found on those “true-crime” minor TV channels, rather than a well-crafted piece of film making (once again, do watch The Jinx).
But most importantly, the film never really looked at the broader picture and failed to answer important questions often just raised but never really explored, like the failings of the American legal systems, which allowed the doctor to carry on his deeds.
As it turns out, the fact that he switched his own semen into non-consenting female patients was actually not illegal at the time when he did it. Dr Cline is still alive and well and never spent a single day in prison.
There were no conclusive answer as to why the doctor did what he did, just some quick assumptions: an incident that happened years before which lead the doctor to act the way he did and that he was probably part of a radical religious group that considered large families a blessing from God, hence his need to constantly create life.
But in the end it all felt just a bit too superficial: such weighty material and important issues really deserved better.
Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick
Our Father is available to watch on Netflix.
See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali
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