Since the beginning of art itself, which is to say since the beginning of humanity, artists have been copying, stealing, and imitating one another. And while director Vern Oakley’s film A Modern Affair is a little more complex than primitive drawings on cave walls, it has certainly had its fair share of writers and filmmakers that may have drawn inspiration from its core thematic elements.
In A Modern Affair, Grace (Lisa Eichhorn) decides she doesn’t want to waste another minute waiting for Mr. Right to come along and goes to a sperm bank, where she carefully selects her baby’s father from hundreds of samples. But once she finds out that she is pregnant, she can’t shake the feeling that her donor Peter (played by Stanley Tucci) might just be the love of her life. Going against all convention, she seeks him out and the pair embarks on a touching romance, until Grace reveals the truth about her baby.
While it may seem at first blush to be a film about sperm donation, the truth is that A Modern Affair is a classic love story that explores not only romance but also intimacy, trust, and what it really means to be a family. It is these same themes that keep showing themselves in films time and again, beginning with The Back-up Plan and Switch, both of which affix themselves to these complex issues with the adhesive story of in-vitro fertilization.
For an international twist on this idea, we’ve recently learned about the French-Canadian feature Starbuck in limited release in New York and Los Angeles. In this film, a serial sperm donor named David (Patrick Huard) finds out over the course of a couple of weeks that his girlfriend is pregnant and that he has fathered 533 children via sperm donation. As if that wasn’t shocking enough, some of his children are petitioning to have his name released and it’s creating a media frenzy.
In A Modern Affair Grace has to decide how she will raise her child – with or without Peter’s support – while in Starbuck David has to figure out how he can be a father both to his girlfriend’s baby and to the 533 others he has helped to create. While we don’t want to give away the story of either film, it is clear that both tackle themes about the essence of being an adult, a partner, and even a human being. A Modern Affair takes these issues and weaves a charming, and at times quite dramatic, film and Starbuck takes a much more raucously comedic approach.
With the popularity of Starbuck (there have even been talks of remaking the film in the U.S. with Vince Vaughn in the leading role) as well as other recent films, it’s clear that the public’s fascination with non-traditional pregnancies and sperm donors, and how those choices can have a ripple effect on friendships, families, and communities. We think that makes it a perfect time to revisit A Modern Affair and its contemporary take on timeless themes like love, commitment, and parenthood. A Modern Affair is currently streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime.