'Our Father' review: Stagey Netflix doc unearths shocking story
Courtesy of Netflix
The latest Netflix documentary “Our Father,” which like most of the streamers docs employs a variety of hokey and staged dramatizations, is a film that won’t easily be shaken. In fact, one might be inclined to label this a horror film, and that it takes place in the real world with earth shattering consequences only solidifies that thought process. A journey of self-discovery which quickly spiraled out of control, “Our Father” unearths how Indianapolis based fertility doctor, Donald Cline committed the ultimate sin by artificially inseminating patients with his own sperm without their consent.
Cline had a notorious reputation for helping couples get pregnant when the odds were stacked against them and “Our Father” peels back the layers of this guise with shocking and jaw-dropping intel. The doc mostly follows Jacoba Ballard, who on a whim decided to fill out an Ancestry DNA kit in the hopes of tracking down half-siblings (her mother, at the time a patient of Cline’s, was told a donor’s sperm could only be used three times) and she ended up discovering nearly 18-siblings on her family tree. Her efforts being the impotence for Donald Cline’s downfall, “Our Father” reveals the fertility doc had fathered some 50 children and counting.
“Our Father” features on-screen interviews with over a dozen of Ballard’s “siblings,” as well as the legal efforts to make Cline pay for what he did. The only problem is the Blumhouse production leans heavily into the realm of dramatization, using real actors to help set the stage and then superimposing actual dialogue over their mouths. Lip reading, essentially. It’s easy to blame director Lucie Jourdan, but the lack of pristine or crisper footage surrounding Cline doesn’t make things easy. But when the film stays focused on the traumatic toll and anguish of the individuals affected by Cline’s heinous and evil acts, “Our Father '' becomes a much stronger film.
Netflix has made a brand out of must-see documentaries, some, like the one about the college admissions scandal, can overstay their welcome, but Jourdan keeps “Our Father” on a steady track. It helps that Ballard is a fascinating and headstrong individual who overcomes some of the stagey theaterics used throughout the film to embolden her overall agenda. Sure, the legal courts might have left Cline with but a slip on the wrist, the wide arm of Netflix and its gazillion eyeballs should put immediate attention on federal regulators to pass laws making what Cline did illegal. That it wasn’t already might be the most shocking discovery “Our Father” digs up.
OUR FATHER debuts on Netflix, Wednesday, May 11th.