“I want to call it a nightmare…” says the very first voice you hear in Our Father. Unfortunately, so does everyone else involved, turning Netflix’s latest true-crime documentary into a horror show.
In fact, the awful true story of Indiana fertility doctor Donald Cline is genuinely scary stuff. Tricking wannabe mums into believing that he was artificially inseminating them with anonymous donor sperm, he spent most of the 80s, 90s and 00s secretly using his own sample instead. Gradually unmasked by his own kids when DNA testing and online ancestry kits became a thing, Cline denied the charges even as the overwhelming evidence started stacking up. Revealing the final number of secret kids he fathered feels weirdly like a spoiler given the way director Lucie Jourdan delights in teasing out the grubby facts, but it’s more than enough to overfill a documentary with traumatised talking heads.
Getting time with every mother, daughter, son, lawyer, colleague and neighbour she can find, Jourdan’s feature-length documentary’s mix of interviews, real audio recordings and staged re-enactments to pour through every detail of the case is more than comprehensive. Not that anyone could mistake Our Father for actual journalism, mind.
Less a balanced exposé than a tabloid scoop played for shocks, the film never even bothers to ask why any of this might have happened. One theory about Cline being a religious zealot who was trying to raise an army of white supremacists is about as close to criminal psychology as Our Father gets, with the rest of the film more than happy to paint him as an evil spunking Santa Claus.
Played in the re-enactments by unknown actor Keith Boyle, Cline is depicted here like a sweaty old monster, wanking over crucifixes in a grimy medical office like something out of The Human Centipede. Another shot shows one of Cline’s kids ‘investigating’ the case by printing out a full-colour photo of his face, before viciously scrubbing out the eyes with a marker pen and adding it to an evidence wall full of ‘clues’.
“When I first aired the story I couldn’t use the doctor’s real name… and that was hard for me…” says a teary Fox News reporter who helped break the case, somehow begging for the same sympathy that actually belongs to the real victims that Cline abused. Their voices are just as lost here in their overuse as Cline’s is in its absence: it’s a great shame that the families affected by such a devastating case don’t get their story taken more seriously.
Produced by horror studio Blumhouse to turn a real tragedy into a salacious bit of bin-juice bingeing, everyone involved will likely get better treatment from Phil and Holly when This Morning inevitably picks up the same story.
- Director: Lucie Jourdan
- Starring: Jacoba Ballard, Keith Boyle, Dianna Kiesler
- Released: May 11