VOD film review: Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth
Ivan Radford | On 25, Sep 2019
Director: Jeanie Finlay
Cast: Freddy McConnell
Watch Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth online in the UK: BBC iPlayer
From Alien to Junior, male pregnancy in cinema has rarely been a concept treated with sincerity. One refreshing exception was A Deal with the Universe, a documentary by transgender filmmaker Jason Barker, who filmed himself over 10 years as he tried to become pregnant with his partner. Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth is another welcome addition to the club, and opens up a world of intimate, personal struggle with heartbreaking, and heartwarming, honesty.
Director Jeanie Finlay turns her lens upon Freddy McConnell, a transgender man who has longed to be a parent for years. So when he and partner CJ decide to go for it and co-parent, it’s the most natural decision in the world to him. But it’s the start of a difficult process, made more difficult by CJ’s sudden change of heart, leaving Freddy carrying the proverbial can on his own.
Single parenting is hard at the best of times, but even before the birth, there are countless challenges for Freddy, as he has to find a new sperm donor and arrange the right hormone therapy to enable his body to carry out human reproductive functions, not to mention deal with the friends and family members in his life that either don’t understand him or don’t support him.
Some of the most moving scenes are between him and his parents, who try to help him through his journey, unlike other, more conservatively minded relatives. But it’s the solo conversations between Freddy and the camera, which guide us through events like confessional diary entries, that really hit home. Freddy and Finlay share a remarkable bond of trust, as he talks candidly through his emotional anguish and conflict – the unforeseen consequence of his decision to become pregnant is that the more hormones he takes to reverse his testosterone treatment, the harder it is to reconcile his identity with his body, and the more alienated he feels.
That frankness is echoed by Finlay’s own empathy, and she cuts between their interviews and footage of Freddy when younger, reinforcing the universality of the circle of life. Months on from the film’s debut, Freddy’s story is continuing, as he fights for the legal right to put “father” on a birth certificate instead of “mother”, something that the court has ruled against. But Seahorse encourages us to look past such debates to understand the complexities of his experience – something that Finlay does, crucially, through Freddy’s own words. What a beautifully sensitive and heartfelt piece of filmmaking.
Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth is available on BBC iPlayer until 10th October 2019.