Our Father tells the story of a fertility doctor, Donald Cline, who secretly used his own sperm to impregnate his patients over a span of 30 years. Some of these women believed they were receiving anonymous donations, whilst others more devastatingly were under the impression that they were using their husband's sperm, which Cline swapped for his own.
The story begins with Jacoba Ballard, one of Cline’s children. Having found out at age 10 that her parents used a sperm donor to conceive her, as an adult she began to look into her DNA. Using 23andMe, she discovered that she had 7 half-siblings - all of whom had mothers who had been patients of Dr Cline.
From this point on, the horror slowly unfurls as the number of siblings increases - all of whom were discovered via 23andMe. The steady increase as more and more siblings are revealed to the audience effectively mimics the way in which the original siblings have gradually uncovered more of their biological family over the years. By the end of the documentary, the tally of Cline’s children had reached 94, and it's likely that there are more yet to be found.
Our Father is a combination of real-life testimonies from Cline’s children and their mothers, alongside dramatisations of Dr Cline and his patients which truly capture the sinister nature of these events. The documentary focuses heavily on the children’s points of view, including interviews with several of them. Whilst many of their mothers also detailed their experiences, it would have perhaps been more compelling to hear more about how Cline’s atrocious actions have affected the women he assaulted.
Another area that the documentary does not focus as much on is the reason why Dr Cline did this. There is a clear sense of anger amongst his children that he has never provided an explanation, other than the pretence that he just wanted to help these women to get pregnant. It is unclear exactly what he got from the situation, and we do not gain much insight into this from the filmmakers.
Despite the couple of elements that Our Father is lacking, it’s still a gripping tale of a twisted Doctor and the ramifications of his actions. We see how his poor health has given so many of his children autoimmune disorders and how he has badly damaged the gene pool of his local area, with the siblings and their families left wondering whether anyone they run into could be related to them.
The documentary also explores the legal consequences faced by Cline: spoiler - there weren’t many. This opens up so many more questions about American lawmaking and how it does not protect women who are victims of such crimes. Our Father demonstrates how this case has helped to bring about changes in State Law, yet there is still much to be done.
Our Father is a morbidly fascinating tale which will leave you thinking about it for days, horrifying but a must-watch.