You Are Not My Mother - New Release Review
Director: Kate Dolan
Starring: Hazel Doupe, Carolyn Bracken, Ingrid Craigie, Paul Reid, Jordanne Jones
Written by: Kate Dolan
Produced by: Deidre Levins
Cinematography by: Narayan Van Maele
Original Score by: Die Hexen
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.
‘You Are Not My Mother’ is the feature length directorial debut of Kate Dolan, who had previously released the rather interesting short ‘Catcalls’ in 2017. This lo-fi Irish folk horror touches on some interesting subjects, such as mental illness and parental abuse, but doesn’t quite deliver on either. Instead, the film tells a ‘changeling’ type story in it's middle act and completely loses all it’s good will it was building up.
Hazel Doupe (Calm with Horses) stars as Char, the concerned daughter of Angela (Carolyn Bracken, The Dublin Murders) and Granddaughter of Rita (Ingrid Craigie, Striking Out). Doupe’s acting is very believable, as I felt heartbroken for this young girl having to live with a mother who clearly has never had a real connection with her daughter. Doupe has the lead here and carries the whole film on her shoulders, and for the most part, I think she does a fantastic job. There’s something about her performance that reminds me of Barry Keoghan, and that’s always a good thing. Bracken is maybe given the toughest job here; we are meant to feel sympathetic to her because she is clearly a victim of mental illness, yet we are always seeing her from a distance, as there is clearly something supernatural going on with her character. Craigie’s Rita was giving off feelings that maybe something more sinister had happened in the past, like she’d been an abusive mother to Angela and that’s why she’s having problems with her mental health now, but unfortunately the film doesn’t go down this path. It's a tad unsatisfactory and vague. Despite some disturbing imagery the folk horror aspects aren't really explored enough.
The film rides this thin line of almost being an excellent short film and being a feature length that wants to explore more themes than it does. The mental illness, the changeling plot, a bullying sub plot that’s straight off an 80’s soap opera; it all feels half-baked and would have been more suited to be explored in a miniseries. After checking my watch countless times, it’s about an hour into the film when something begins to actually happen. I do enjoy a slow burn, but this film really doesn’t have enough interesting material to stretch over a 90-minute run time.
I don’t want to be completely negative, there were definitely some highlights in the film that kept me interested until the end. Some of the cinematography is beautiful, especially towards the end as the finale takes place on Halloween night. Kate Dolan is someone to keep an eye on in the future, she’s able to get fantastic performances out of a cast made up of mostly newcomers. I’m excited to see Hazel Doupe pop up in more projects as she was the stand out performance of the film.
The set-up is excellent but I don't think it quite achieves what it’s aiming for. Other recent Irish folk horror films like 'The Hole in the Ground' or 'The Hallow' have told the same story to a better effect, but there’s definitely something here that Dolan could explore more. I might not have loved 'You Are Not My Mother' but I’m excited to see what Kate Dolan does next.
Can’t believe I made it the whole way through this review without making a Kat/Zoe Slater ‘You Ain't My Motherrrrr’ joke. Proud of myself.
- Adam Neeson
'You Are Not My Mother' is screening in Irish cinemas now and released in the UK by Signature Entertainment on April 8th