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Recommended: Our Father on Netflix

Netflix's new doc about a sinister fertility doctor is jaw-dropping and refreshingly succinct.
  • Keith Boyle portrays ferility doctor Donald Cline in Our Father. (Photo: Netflix)
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    Our Father | Netflix
    Documentary Film (90 minutes) | TV-MA

    Trigger warning: This review and the film it discusses contain mentions of sensitive subjects including sexual assault and rape.

    What's Our Father About?

    An Indianapolis fertility doctor is discovered to have used his own sperm to inseminate his patients, an unspeakable breach of morality and ethics uncovered by one of the children when she takes an at-home DNA test. As more and more unknowing siblings come forward, the full details — and murky motives — of this doctor's scheme come to light.

    Who's involved?

    • Dr. Donald Cline, who at the time of filming had fathered nearly 100 children.
    • Jacoba Ballard, whose curiosity about her parentage led her to take an at-home DNA test and make the shocking discovery that she had multiple sibling matches. Her investigation into this fertility anomaly led to her uncovering Dr. Cline's crimes.
    • Lucie Jourdan, making her directorial debut with this feature.
    • Jason Blum, powerhouse Hollywood producer of (among others) horror flicks. His company Blumhouse Television produced this film along with Netflix.

    Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?

    With the trend in streaming documentaries leaning heavily toward multi-part series that drag out revelations so they can be end-of-episode cliffhangers, we must honor docs that succinctly tell a sordid tale. If you're looking for a 90-minute story about a jaw-dropping criminal act, then Our Father delivers. No pun intended.

    The story itself is a strong hook. Abuse by a fertility doctor in any capacity is a horrific violation, and Our Father gives a lot of room to Dr. Cline's victims — both the women he fraudulently impregnated and the children he deceptively fathered — to give testimony to how they were made to feel. It's not inaccurate to compare Cline's actions to sexual violation and rape, given the details of how the doctor would prepare his patients for insemination, then recuse himself to his office, where he would ejaculate into a cup to be used as the sperm sample. One victim recounts, with terrifying clarity, being made aware of Cline's actions years later and thinking, "He raped me fourteen times and I never even knew it."

    These kinds of accounts are bracing and horrifying, but they're what make Our Father more than just a sordid tabloid scandal. With a crime this outrageously brazen, there might have been a temptation to go over-the-top, but director Lucie Jordan centers the film on the mothers and daughters, giving them the space to express their pain while also doing the hard work of pursuing justice in the matter.

    Our Father follows the often frustrating legal process, wherein the state of Indiana had to be dragged kicking and screaming into prosecuting Cline. One particularly maddening county prosecutor describes how they couldn't go after him because his actions didn't fall under any established definitions of a crime. It says something when a criminal offense is so unique that the law hasn't thought of it yet.

    Pairs well with

    • The Puppet Master, another recent Netflix documentary about an individual whose actions are almost too vile to be believed, this one about a con man who pretended to be a British secret agent and ruined several people's lives in the process.
    • Three Identical Strangers, the 2018 documentary about strangers who discover they're identical triplets. It's streaming on Hulu.
    • Private Life, the 2018 narrative film from director Tamara Jenkins, where Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti struggle through infertility (though they have some really good and non-evil doctors, which is nice). It's streaming on Netflix.

  • Our Father
    Premieres on Netflix May 11, 2022.
    Produced by Jason Blum, Lucie Jourdan, Michael Petrella, and Amanda Spain.
    Directed by: Lucie Jourdan.

    TOPICS: Our Father, Netflix, Amanda Spain, Jason Blum, Lucie Jourdan, Lucie Jourdan, Michael Petrella