"Turning away from grisly murders and harrowing sex cults, the true-crime documentaries and docuseries saturating streamers have recently been dominated by scams," says Jacob Oller. "Catfishing, social engineering, the looting of investors and tech bros—it’s the schadenfreude porn of late capitalism. Satisfying to our morbid curiosity, appealing to our smug sense of superiority, and all (mostly) without exploiting the families or victims of something truly heinous. Our Father, first-time director Lucie Jourdan’s Netflix documentary, splits the difference to find the worst of all worlds: A fraud captivating enough to fill a news segment, half-heartedly unfolded to the detriment of all parties involved. The case of Donald Cline, an Indianapolis fertility doctor who decided to personally impregnate his patients instead of using whatever samples they’d been promised (be they donor sperm or that of their husbands), is made as repetitive and uninspired as a creepy old quack masturbating day in and day out behind closed office doors." Oller adds that Jourdain's reality TV past is seen in "familiarity with short-and-sweet, overproduced-to-get-you-through-the-commercials episodic narrative is stretched to its limit over Our Father’s 90 minutes. The Cline case is far too simple to be spread so thin, especially with so little interest in or access to the main players."
Our Father is too Dateline-esque: "At the moment, far too many true crime documentaries function as little more than an episode of Dateline," says Nina Metz. "They report information but lack analysis or even thoughtful ideas about how to use the medium of film to tell a story at once shocking and infuriating. Such is the case with Our Father on Netflix, about a fertility doctor (Dr. Donald Cline) who secretly used his own sample to artificially inseminate more than 90 patients." Metz adds: "From a filmmaking standpoint, Our Father is not especially contemplative about the lives of these families who have been so hurt by Cline. 'Isn’t this terrible?' the documentary asks, while never digging much deeper."
Our Father is a frustrating, tawdry documentary that rips a headline for trashy dramatic beats: "Jourdan struggles to let the tragic stories shared by these men and women to breathe," says Robert Daniels. "A jagged and eerie score adds an unnecessary, overbearing mood and tone to their recounting. Staged scenes of Ballard dressed in a red hoodie, hunched over her computer as a web of papers and photos surround her, are closer to comical than serious. And the obvious reenactments of an actor playing Cline in scenes with the real-life Ballard are strained, at best; amateurish at worst. At every turn, Jourdan is determined to relegate this crime to a tacky TruTV documentary."
Our Father is content to wring every ounce of shock value without adding anything of greater value: "The best of the true-crime documentaries that are now strewn across Netflix and other platforms take their stories as starting points, thin ends of wedges with which to crack open wider issues," says Lucy Mangan. "Our Father takes none of the opportunities offered by Cline and his unfortunate offsprings’ experiences to look at medical hubris, male entitlement, the almost religious faith we place in doctors, the possible alliance between racism and white supremacy and Christianity in the States. And, against the current horrifying rollback of reproductive rights in the US, its lack of interest in the bias against women that runs so deep in the legal system that their unconsenting impregnation by a doctor does not amount to a crime seems even more glaring than it would under 'normal' circumstances."