March 30, 2022 You Are Not My Mother (Movie Review)
Irish folklore, family dynamics and mental illness are all visited in Irish Filmmaker Kate Dolan’s impressive debut feature You Are Not My Mother.
The film follows Char (Hazel Doupe: Float Like a Butterfly 2o18, Smother series), a quiet and introspective teenager who lives with her grandmother Rita (Ingrid Craige: The Dead 1987, Blood series) and mother Angela (Carolyn Bracken: Line of Duty 2012, Dublin Murders 2019) in a drab house on a suburban housing estate. Char’s mother is often out of the picture at home, described as the rest of the family as having ‘low days.’ When Angela disappears for a few days, only to return as a much brighter and happier person, Char begins to suspect that the person that has returned is not her mother.
Released via Magnet Releasing in theaters and on demand March 25, 2022, You Are Not My Mother is a gloriously slow burn and atmospheric film. The film steadily builds throughout, weaving an atmosphere of oppression and tension until it all comes to a climax in the chilling final act. The film uses folklore and myth to explore how mental illness can affect people and also how it can affect their loved ones. It also looks at the relationship between mothers and daughters and the power of the matriarchal lineage.
Hazel Doupe is brilliant as a teenager who is desperately trying to strive for any sense of normality. Picked on at school by her classmates and frequently stressed at home, she is an extremely sympathetic and engaging lead. The audience roots for Char, not only because of her disruptive life but also because everyone knows how important familial relationships are and how much they play a massive part in our lives. “Family is the scariest fucking thing on the planet” says one character and for many that statement will ring impossibly close to the bone. Certainly for Char, nothing could be more apt.
Visually, You Are Not My Mother works really well. With a dark and subtle color palette, the film looks like a horror even in its most calm and peaceful moments. It has a lusterless quality to it, which sounds like a slight but in this case it is most definitely not, and it only serves to give the film a mythos feel which really draws the audience into it. The film’s sound design also contributes to the feeling of horror and plays on the psychological elements of the film. Small sounds are elevated and what might normally seem quite unthreatening, the sound of a pushchair being wheeled along or the creak of a door, suddenly feel anything but and have the audience on tenterhooks. Set at Halloween and culminating on Guy Fawkes Night, the film takes place at the height of Samhain which fits perfectly into a story that explores the terrors that might manifest in the most terrifying week of the year and culminate in explosions.
There have been a spate of recent films that not only explore similar themes but have also been female led. You Are Not My Mother comfortably joins these films as a strong addition as well as demonstrating that Dolan is undoubtedly a talent to watch. For these reasons Cryptic Rock gives this film 4 out of 5 stars.