Directed by Kate Dolan, the feature debut You Are Not My Mother stars Hazel Doupe as Char, Carolyn Bracken as her mother Angela, Ingrid Craigie as her grandmother Rita, Paul Reid as her uncle Aaron and Jordanne Jones as her school friend Suzanne. Ninety-three minutes long, it's rated MA15 plus and is the Winner of the Discovery Award - Dublin International Film Festival 2022 and Winner, Best Film - Gérardmer Film Festival 2022. You'll find this film and other gems at the Irish Film Festival 2022 which is screening in cinema and online.
Set in North Dublin, Char lives with her mother and grandmother, and her uncle visits from time to time. It's the week before Halloween and Char's unwell mother Angela mysteriously goes missing after driving Char to school. All that can be found is her abandoned car parked in the middle of a field. With no explanation, Angela returns home the following evening. Over the next few days, it becomes clear to Char that there is something clearly not quite right with her mother. She's a little erratic and at times downright frightening. As Halloween draws near, a night steeped in ancient Irish myth and legend, Char's grandmother pulls her aside and tells her something needs to be done, or she'll lose her mother forever, and she'd be the one they come for next.
You Are Not My Mother is a horror film that's more about atmosphere than about actual scares. It sets the scene with its dull tones and dark recesses in a home that looks run down and unloved - a little forlorn, dusty and musty. It never really becomes a full-on scary film, but is slow-burning and character-driven. The three female leads are performance strong and powerful and hold your attention. Cinematically, narrow hallways, doors left ajar, alarming reflections in the mirror, characters seen partially, and whispers all add to the atmosphere and tension that's put together well enough to keep you on edge and leave you with a sense of unease. Char is a quiet girl who gets cornered and bullied by fellow students at school. She's the responsible one at home but has no idea as to what's going on; family secrets hidden from her.
This film dips into Irish folklore; Halloween or Samhain if you prefer. And it's certainly not about trick or treat. It was believed that during the festival of Samhain, spirits were able to pass between the two worlds on this night. Armed with this knowledge the film will make more sense to you. The fine balance between strong performances and a tense atmosphere keeps the film from becoming boring. Keeping the run time relatively short was also a clever move and kept the film from dragging as there was not much more to tell. It's a bit of a toss-up as to which was scarier. The horror the film promises or the bullying Char endures. This is a film that gently wraps you in its folklore and carries you along as opposed to the blood-thirsty horror genre.