You Are Not My Mother (2022) is Dark, Pulsing Irish Folk Horror
Title: You Are Not My Mother
First Non-Festival Release: March 17, 2022 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Kate Dolan
Writer: Kate Dolan
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Starring: Hazel Doupe, Jordanne Jones, Carolyn Bracken
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Life has been rough for Char (Hazel Doupe). Scarred from birth due to the superstitions of her grandmother, Rita (Ingrid Craigie), and the carelessness of her mother, Angela (Carloyn Bracken), she must contend with bullies at school like Kelly (Katie White) alone due to her unsteady home life. When her mother goes missing during a depressive episode, things escalate as Char loses any sense of control she once had. Her mother's return, however, upends things even more as she begins to display a variety of behaviors foreign to her. Char must muster the courage to stand up to her mother, if she wants to save her.
Simmering slow-burn Irish horror You Are Not My Mother sinks its teeth into a timeless and terrifying myth.
In most films featuring changelings, the subject is a young child taken in the forest only to return different. Oftentimes, this is signified as a metaphor for developmental disorders taking hold in early adolescence, throwing parents off when their “perfect” child begins behaving counter to their expectations. In You Are Not My Mother, this dynamic is flipped with Angela, instead, going missing on her own volition and returning as the perfect mother. While the changes are initially welcomed by Char, it’s clear over the course of her homecoming that something is terribly wrong.
Angela’s mental health concerns are never addressed beyond the surface level. The audience understands that she is experiencing depression at the very least, but the film never elaborates on why. This affects her sleep, attitude, memory, and willpower to provide even the most basic needs for herself and her family. Char is clearly bothered by this but has no agency to do more than remind her mother to function. Angela’s return as a changeling serves as her “return to normal” behavior, that some who experience mental health crises may course correct to when bouncing back from a difficult low.
While this story sees Angela’s antagonism mostly through the lens of a doppelganger, her treatment from society remains the same. Due to her history, the police seem unconcerned with finding her during her initial absence, parents spread rumors and warnings to their children, effectively ostracizing Char, and family members do their best to grapple with something that they have a difficult time understanding.
The idea of the changeling itself is subversive considering the extended metaphor of the film. These fae creatures are meant only to deceive and destroy, which is a sadly real stereotype that those suffering from mental health issues get when they are honest with their struggles. It can be as simple as they are doing it for attention to they are being punished for some unknown sins. The fact that Angela is also a single mother potentiates this idea even further to where the intentionality must have been there from writer/director Kate Dolan.
Anchored by incredible lead performances, You Are Not My Mother works because of its stellar cast. Hazel Doupe is convincing in her role as a scared teenager. She emits a consistent stream of vulnerability and quiet anger. That said, Carolyn Bracken’s performance takes the film to entirely new levels. Tasked with playing three different moms in one, Bracken takes viewers on an emotional rollercoaster of a journey. Each act she gets to play Angela in different lights: resigned and hopeless, uncannily content and volatile, then finally wholly terrifying. She makes the film shine like the bonfires set up by the troublesome neighborhood kids.
Rich in cinematic details, You Are Not My Mother shines visually. From fireworks to quick takes in the mirror, it is filled with moments that raise the stakes and catch the audience off guard. There is a true sense of visual and aural intensity. The creature and body horror effects are subtle yet undeniably creepy. Watching the rot through the screen is equal parts fascinating and jarring. You Are Not My Mother holds its cards close to its heart, as to never get too close with Angela as she devolves into true form. Deliberately paced, this sinister psychological horror offering will catch you off guard.
A dazzling display of atmospheric horror coupled with compelling family drama, You Are Not My Mother captivates with its modern take on the infamous Irish legend. The pervading sense of dread starts early with the horrifically real terrors of mental illness and burnout but slowly turns into something more terrifying when Angela morphs into someone different altogether. Gripping performances from Bracken and Doupe elevate this dark gem to new heights as the terrifying ordeal boils over in the glorious finale. Clever direction, beautifully muted cinematography, and consistently frightening imagery help make this European horror one to look out for. It’s hard to tell if a horror film is going to be terrible or terrifying, thankfully You Are Not My Mother is exactly what meets the eyes.
Overall Score? 7/10