Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Father Unknown Adoption Movie Review

David Quint’s father, Urban Quint, never knew who his birth father was. His earliest memories are set at an orphanage in Switzerland, but as a young child his mother sent from America to have him join her. He spend the remaining years of childhood being raised by her, but she refused to tell him anything about his birth father. In the years that followed, Urban reached adulthood, became a teacher, married, had a son, and watched his son grow into adulthood. When his mother passed, he finally decided to seek out information about his birth father – and as part of that search, to briefly return to Switzerland. The film, Father Unknown, is largely shot by David Quint’s camera phone as it is happening.

A journey to Switzerland is overwhelming, but connects Urban with people who remember him from his time in the orphanage, provides hints that he might have some relatives that he never knew existed, and ultimately begins to reveal the information that he has come to seek.

The Adoption Connection

David’s grandmother kept secrets from his father. These secrets plagued David as well; he explained that there is “something missing; a distance with other people… a lack of connection.” Often – and rightly so – the adoption community focuses on the way that secrecy causes pain to birth families and adoptees; this film adds a focus on the pain that secrecy can cause future generations.

In a way, Father Unknown mirrors Closure, in that a search that initially provides information eventually provides relationship.

Strong Points

Father Unknown powerfully depicts a man’s quest to find information that has long been kept from him. It also adds the unique perspective of that man’s son, who also has been pained by that missing information.

Urban is supported and encouraged by his wife and son in this quest. Although his mother told him to never pursue this missing part of his history, everyone that he encounters on his journey seems to be welcoming, warm, and helpful.

Although it’s a bit of a spoiler, it’s important for adoptive families to know ahead of time that Urban does find – and meet – a half-brother who warmly welcomes him. We learn that this older half-brother has always know that Urban existed; he never knew his name, but had always prayed to meet him. The pain that secrecy in adoption can cause is profound, and it reaches far; Father Unknown captures that beautifully and powerfully without being accusatory.


It is sometimes uncomfortable to see how disoriented and overwhelmed Urban is at some points of his journey. Viewers are taken on a very personal and very real journey with him.


Father Unknown is a very powerful, firsthand journey of reconnection and rediscovery in a similar fashion to Closure. This film gets Adoption at the Movies’ high recommendation for teens and adults; it might be particularly interesting to people consider adoption and to adults whose lives have already been touched by adoption.

Questions for Discussion

How many people were hurt by the secrecy revolving around Urban? What was lost? What was gained by the secrecy?

What would it be like to discover – well into your retirement – that you have family that you’d never met? How would you respond? 

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