Mom & Dad’s Nipple Factory is an eye-catching title for this truly lovely portrait of a complicated American family whose patriarch and matriarch just happen to produce high-grade prosthetic adhesive nipples for women with breast cancer.
Brian and Randi Johnson founded Naturally Impressive, LLC after the latter’s battle with the disease, and the two of them have created a thriving product with thousands of loyal customers who have found great value in their work. Brian is a focused, no-nonsense man without much to say who has always worked at fixing things and has found his calling working in their basement producing the nipples. Meanwhile, Randi is as outgoing as they come, connecting with customers and bonding over their shared experiences in a genuine way. They fit a pretty traditional Americana mold — two young lovebirds living in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, with five children, personalities that seem to fall into the usual man-and-woman stereotypes, and deep-seated religious faith.
What gives Nipple Factory its power is the perspective with which it’s told. Justin “Justinsuperstar” Johnson wrote and directed the film, weaving together the tale of his parents finding their business calling with their own tumultuous relationship. He’s the oldest of the four children. He’s also the only one to leave Eau Claire and the religious faith that holds together his parent’s world. The split was not always kind, and he’s candid about the way leaving home (first for California, then New York) separated him from their world, even during Randi’s battle with cancer. Justin left home to pursue his filmmaking career and found success in the nascent days of video blogging, eventually working for YouTube and other major brands producing documentaries.
Justin brings all the lessons he learned to Nipple Factory, which, over the course of its relatively short runtime, manages to feel like an all-encompassing chronicle of the way many American families have grown and changed in the 21st century. Over the course of their story, the Johnsons break apart and come back together again as the world changes around them and forces them to change with it. One of Justin’s big questions to his parent’s close-knit, traditional community is what their friends think of their business. Sex isn’t something usually spoken of lightly, and the nipple itself is filled with social meaning; what does it mean that his parents are making a business out of producing them?
The actual answers from their friends are kind and thoughtful. There’s little drama in the dissonance within the community Itself. But the person the question is coming from is Justin, who spent his youth in an environment he found stifling but has now grown up to witness his parents change in their later years. In many ways, his film feels like Justin’s own journey of self-discovery as he comes to realize new aspects of his parents he didn’t full appreciate as a younger man. Compassion is at the heart of Naturally Impressive and compassion is what makes Nipple Factory such a heartwarming watch. There are a lot of stories in our era about families splitting up over politics and hardened beliefs; it’s nice to watch a story about the changing world allowing one to reconcile, and with such a valuable mission.