HBO’s powerful 3-part documentary Nuclear Family exquisitely details a landmark case in LGBTQ family rights. Sandy Russo and Robin Young had the loving desire to start a family at a time when lesbians and gays didn’t do that in the late 70s/early 80s. Years later, that eventually devolved into a court battle, pitting the two women against one of the gay biological sperm donors. With Ry Russo-Young (one of two daughters born to Russo and Young) at the center of the storm, the trial culminated in a landmark decision that would have great significance for LGBTQ families.
Forty years later, Russo-Young boldly reexamines the sequence of events that led to her conception, the trial, the press coverage, and the aftermath as well as her own evolving feelings as she seeks out long dormant truths. The series features a treasure trove of home videos and interviews that track the history of these complex relationships.
As a filmmaker, Russo-Young’s narrative credits include Nobody Walks (co-written with Lena Dunham), You Won’t Miss Me, and Before I Fall, all three screened at the Sundance Film Festival.
Nuclear Family, which began life as a potential narrative film, startles in its honest exploration of what makes a family. The director also allows herself to be the subject and does something incredibly brave: she takes a deep dive into her past with great empathy for all those involved.
Awards Daily had a revealing Zoom chat with Ry Russo-Young about Nuclear Family and why she needed to tell this revelatory story now.
Nuclear Family is currently available to stream on HBO Max.