GMP’s Noah Brand was interviewed for The Globe and Mail about a documentary by Sarah Polley financed by the National Film Board of Canada. Polley details how her family discovered and then dealt with the fact that the man she called Dad was not her biological father.
Polley only told her father news of a DNA test disproving his paternity after her hand was forced by a nosy reporter:
In 2007 I was on set in Montreal, shooting a scene for the film Mr. Nobody. I received a phone call from a friend warning me that a journalist had found out a piece of information about my life that I had kept a secret for a year. I got in touch with the journalist and begged him not to print the story. It was a story that I had kept secret from many people in my life including my father. It took some time and many tears to convince the journalist not to print the story within the week, but I left that conversation convinced that it was not a secret I could keep for long, and that if I wanted the people in my life and outside my life to know the story in my own words, I would have to take action.
I flew to Toronto that night to tell my father the news. He was not my biological father. This had been confirmed by a DNA test with a man I had met a year earlier. I had met my biological father almost by accident, though I had long suspected based on family jokes and rumours that my mother may have had an affair that led to my conception.
The father’s passivity upon learning the news is striking. In the movie’s trailer he says “this is a great, great story.” To be blunt, it’s no wonder that something like this happened to him:
My father’s response to this staggering piece of news was extraordinary. He has always been a man who responds to things in unusual ways, for better or for worse. He was shocked, but not angry. His chief concern, almost immediately, was that my siblings and I not put any blame on my mother for her straying outside of their marriage. He was candid about his own lack of responsiveness towards her and how that may have led her to the point where she sought out the affection of another person. And then he began to write. And write and write and write.
This film is a further denigration of the cuckolded man, a celebration of women’s unfettered sexual choice and all for the sake of having a good story to tell. Polley attempts to throw art into the mix, but it’s merely an excuse to wallow in their own familial filth. And it’s all held together by the tricked man laughing at his own ineptness. Some might say that he is enlightened or easy-going or whatever. Or maybe he’s fully fixed with a deep self-loathing by which he excuses transgressions passed against him. He is first a human, then a man, but then also a proponent of liberalism and feminism. Those have killed his human and masculine instinct and now, to complete his humiliation, he wants the story to be told.* “Because it’s such a good story and I’m a good liberal who cannot hide a good story just because I’m the sucker in it.” He wants to own his degradation in front of the world and of course the capitalizing daughter who is despicable enough to hide an important secret from her father in the first place is willing to pull it all together. And it all stems from a sick, dishonest act that at least one person should come along and put their finger on. The mother was sick; the father is sick; the daughter seems sick and dishonest and horrible as well.
*It’s a given that if a husband had duped his wife in any way (obviously not in her maternity but something else) there would be no celebration of it, no telling of the “good story” of his dishonesty, no excuse-making.