You Are Not My Mother – Review
In a North Dublin housing estate Char's mother goes missing. When she returns Char is determined to uncover the truth of her disappearance and unearth the dark secrets of her family.
Welcome to Knockout Horror and to another Quick Fire Horror Review. Today we are taking a look at Irish horror movie You Are Not My Mother. You can check this powerful, female lead, horror drama out on Netflix right now. Dealing with themes of mental illness combined with Celtic folklore. This is a dreary movie that places a strong emphasis on family drama. A degree of social commentary provides a minor background theme. As it stands, though, this is straight up horror.
You Are Not My Mother follows the story of teenager Charlotte and her mum Angela. When Angela goes missing one day, the family are concerned. She suffers from Bipolar Disorder and is something of a vulnerable person. Char is relieved when she returns but something seems different. Her mum doesn’t seem the same as she did before. I felt as though this fit the mould of a Quick Fire Review. This is one of those movies that could be ruined by saying too much. Added to that, there isn’t a tremendous amount to say. It is just good, old fashioned, grey, Irish horror. If you enjoy gloomy, slow burning, movies, carry on reading. If not, you probably want to look elsewhere.
Why not check out our review of Skinamarink? It’s completely different and taking the world by storm at the moment. Why not see what we think? As always, Quick Fire Reviews are short format. I normally write tons. These articles are more digestible at under 1,000 words. Not including this intro and headers, of course.
A Horror of Many Themes
You Are Not My Mother is one of those horror movies that employs a number of themes. Many of these themes have become fairly common in horror as of late. Focusing on a young girl who is struggling due to a difficult home life. This feels like a domestic horror story for much of its runtime. Char is viciously bullied by other girls. Awkward and reserved. She has no friends and a complicated school life. The story hints at a history that has left the girl ostracised by peers. Wearing a scar on the right side of her face. Her mother’s claim that it is a birthmark does not ring entirely true.
An uncomfortable tension exists from the very get go. Late for school, Char’s mum, Angela, pulls herself out of bed to drive her in. Clearly struggling with bipolar disorder. It soon becomes clear that she feels incapable of going on. A short disappearance results in her returning, seemingly, changed. Domestic tensions rise as the family struggle to keep Angela medicated. It soon becomes clear that there is more going on than meets the eye.
Effective and Relatable
It is effective stuff. Char’s social housing neighbourhood feels hostile. Her home even more so. This is a movie that aims to set a mood and pull you down with it. The gloomy, grey, ambience of the Irish autumn makes for a fitting backdrop. I often lament the greyness of horror from the British Isles. Be it Scottish, English, Welsh, or Irish. We have a climate here that makes for a depressive feeling. A feeling that only someone who has been raised under it could fight off. If you wish to share in Char’s feelings of hopelessness. You need only look at the rainclouds threatening overhead.
Char’s homelife feels painfully real and authentic. This only adds to the gloom. Her mother is suffering, there are secrets in her family. Everyone is concerned and nobody will tell her what is going on. It’s easy to buy into this confined depression. This is a situation all too real for many people. Char is, basically, a powerless observer of events. This feeling rubs off on the viewer. It eventually gives way to horror of an entirely different kind. Unambiguous and uncomplicated in its presentation. Something that similar movies are, often, too afraid to do.
Mental Illness and Celtic Folklore
The temptation here would be to focus on a metaphorical type of horror. Angela is suffering from bipolar disorder. As a sufferer myself, I often struggle with movie representations of the illness. There’s Something Wrong With The Children is one such example. Angela’s bipolar disorder is presented in a frighteningly real manner. The frustration of her relatives and patronising approach of the people around her. Rings all too familiar for anyone with the condition. It feels as though the writer has actually experienced this before.
The presentation of the illness is somewhat familiar. Despite this, the mental health aspect gives way to something rooted far deeper in horror. Far deeper in folk lore and legend. It feels, at times, all too real and all too troubling. When all is said and done, however. You Are Not My Mother wraps things in a neat horror bow. The ending is satisfying and effective, which brings me onto my next point. Effective horror is something that this movie does very well.
Actually Creepy and Fantastically Acted
Certain scenes in You Are Not My Mother are genuinely creepy. Angela’s condition goes beyond simple mania. As that becomes more apparent the horror really ramps up. The movie steps in and out of various sub-genres effectively. Never staying in any one for too long. Elements of body horror are welcome for their ability to turn your stomach. Chase scenes are both tense and impactful. The domestic side of things maintains its relevance. It is a wonderful balance capably supported by the excellent cast.
Hazel Doupe is entirely believable and sympathetic as Char. As the viewer, you easily buy into her strained home life. You feel for her when she is attacked by other girls. You sympathise with her as she struggles with her mum’s changes. Carolyn Braken, puts on a powerful performance as mum Angela. Keeping the viewer continuously guessing regarding her state of mind. Certain scenes are memorable for her committed and creepy performance. Side characters are all fine. Jordanne Jones is noteworthy for her turn as nuanced character Suzanne.
Decent Cinematography but a Few Issues
Cinematography here is fine. This isn’t a stunning part of Ireland. This is a North Dublin housing estate; don’t expect stunning vistas. The mood is deliberately grey and dreary and the camera work reflects that. Kate Dolan’s direction is excellent. Pacing is okay. The film does sag a bit in parts. The 93 minute runtime feels a little long in places. Some of the domestic stuff feels inconsequential. A little trimming here and there could have helped.
Some of the events are a bit ridiculous. The bullying, for example, seems utterly farcical. It would take some seriously messed up kids to resort to what these girls do. The metal illness aspect is as stale and curdled as three week old milk. It adds some minor flavouring to the story and little else. Otherwise, this is a fantastic hidden gem of a slow burn horror.
Is it a Knockout?
You Are Not My Mother is an effective Irish horror movie. Slow burning and rather dreary in parts. This is a movie that you will think you have figured out. Only for it to go off in a completely different direction. A focus on mental illness coupled with dark domestic horror is fairly milquetoast. Luckily, as the movie goes on, it gives way to something far more interesting.
Celtic legends abound and the scares come in slowly but effectively. This is a film full of intrigue. Excellent performances from the entire cast combine with a fairly engaging story. The result is an underrated horror gem well worth checking out. It's not for everyone. It may be too slow for some. If you enjoy this type of thing, however. It may be right up your street.
Trailer: You Are Not My Mother
|Release Date:||4th March 2022|
|Movie Type:||Horror, Supernatural, Drama|
|Movie Length:||93 Min|
|Starring:||Hazel Doupe, Carolyn Bracken, Jordanne Jones, Jade Jordan, Paul Reid, Ingrid Craigie|
|Directed By:||Kate Dolan|
|Written By:||Kate Dolan|
|Produced By:||Deirdre Levins|
|Parental Guidance:||Language, drug use, injury detail, body horror, violence, bullying|