Paternal Instinct

Murray Nossel's "Parental Instinct" is a genuinely sweet and poignant chronicle of a gay male couple's anxious first pregnancy -- in conjunction with a surrogate mother. Endearing nature of the personalities involved makes a fine argument for weighing parental suitability on terms more profound than the prospective parents sexual orientation. By docu's end, it's clear <I>this</I>baby is going to have a good home.

Best among a slew of gay-parenting pix currently making gay-fest rounds (alongside ones about gay marriage), Murray Nossel’s “Parental Instinct” is a genuinely sweet and poignant chronicle of a gay male couple’s anxious first pregnancy — in conjunction with a surrogate mother. Endearing nature of the personalities involved makes a fine argument for weighing parental suitability on terms more profound than the prospective parents sexual orientation. By docu’s end, it’s clear this baby is going to have a very, very good home. Broadcast slots beckon.

Manhattanites Erik and Mark have been domestic partners for a decade. Secure in their future together, they (Erik, especially) want to raise a child. Searching the Internet for a willing birth mother, they luck out with Wen, a Maine wife and mother who agrees to bear junior (inseminated via syringe with the boys’ seed) for a standard-market-rate fee.

This arrangement soon turns out far more than a strictly business one, however, as all parties become emotionally involved in the process — including Wen’s son and husband, who (like the expectant fathers’ parents) are happily very supportive of the whole venture.

Failed conception attempts and an early-term miscarriage make it a very long, sometimes painful wait. But at last newborn Cecilia arrives, in a midwifed wading pool delivery that’s joyous and very moving. (Epilogue reveals she’s joined 19 months later by sibling Liv.)

Although Wen is a white witch, her Wiccan spirituality is of the low-key, Earth Goddess-honoring type; meanwhile Mark and Erik are the kind of good-humored, open-hearted couple one might wish all prospective parents resembled. Everyone gets along famously — it’s obvious Cecilia’s “extended family” will include Wen and kin out of sincere interest rather than obligation.

Jaunty musical choices and a smart pace help keep docu light on its feet, with emotional moments never pushed for effect. Tech aspects are fine.

Paternal Instinct

Production: A Cinemax Reel Life presentation of a Two Spirit Production in association with the BBC. Produced by Craig Harwood, Murray Nossel. Executive producer, Sheila Nevins. Co-producers, Edward Marritz, Doug Block. Directed by Murray Nossel.

Crew: Camera (color, video), Edward Marritz; editor, Susanne Rostock; music, Hahn Rowe; music coordinator, Brooke Wentz; sound editor, Tony Slocum. Reviewed on videocassette, July 10, 2004. (In San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Film Festival.) Running time: 73 MIN.

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