Greetings again from the darkness. Over the past five decades, blended families have become commonplace, while at the same time single women and same-sex couples have utilized sperm-donors to enrich and expand their families. Michael Rothman’s documentary kind of combines these two as he explores the 37 half-siblings resulting from anonymous sperm-donor number 5114 at the California Cryobank.
You may have seen one or both of the film comedies, STARBUCK (2011) and DELIVERY MAN (2013). The first from Canada, the re-make two years later starring Vince Vaughn. Both were directed by Ken Scott and revolve around a sperm-donor who discovers he fathered 533 offspring. Well, Mr. Rothman’s documentary is not quite that outlandish, and it’s told from the perspective of the kids, who slowly uncover and communicate with their half-siblings. They even have their own Facebook group!
Rothman’s approach allows us access to the meet-ups (reunions) of the half-siblings as more of them are able to make the trips. Over the years this was filmed, we are there for Taos, Los Angeles, Plymouth, and Breckenridge. We even join them for a tour of the California Cryobank, where one couple takes the last two vials of 5114, in hopes of adding to their own family, as well as this connected one.
These are mostly just normal kids who are trying to fill that familial gap that occurs when one doesn’t know a parent. It’s both understandable and emotional. As Mattie from Dallas turns 18, she’s encouraged to reach out to the donor through the organization. The burden she carries for the group proves a bit too heavy, but later one of the siblings does make contact virtually … and Rothman has us in the room as the correspondence is read.
We are shown a timeline for the kids, and we hear the same audio recording they do – that of the donor at the time of his 1996 application. Hearing his voice provides comfort, but his self-description of “optimistic and curious” with a love of fly-fishing, leaves the kids wishing (and deserving) of more. As with any group of 37 kids, there is a wide variance in personalities, but the kids enjoy exploring their similarities. We are told that the average donor leads to 12-14 offspring, so 37 is a statistical anomaly, and hats off to these half-siblings for bonding with each other to complete the circle.
Streaming on Discovery+ on April 10, 2021