Kate Dolan's directorial feature debut takes on the task of weaving folklore about changelings with familial struggles. In You Are Not My Mother horror is reframed within the confines of a quaint Irish home where terror lies within the shocking transformation Char (Hazel Doupe) witnesses in her mother Angela (Carolyn Bracken).
You Are Not My Mother is a Psychological Irish Horror Film
Outside of the opening sequence which depicts an older woman consulting a grimoire about cleansing a baby by fire and following through with it, You Are Not My Mother doesn't feel quite like a horror film. Char endures bullying at the hands of her extremely mean classmates, while at home she has to deal with her mother wasting away under the weight of depression.
Her grandma Rita (Ingrid Craigie), who happens to be the older woman from the baby-burning, makes great strides to ensure that Char is rarely alone with her mother Angela. That, in and of itself, seems odd, but not enough for the audience to really question it.
Changelings have been done before in folklore-based horror, but Dolan does something refreshingly new with her interpretation. As nerve-racking as some of the horror-tinged scenes are in the film, the bulk of the horror depicted is psychological and cerebral.
While the mean girls fit the cliched young adult horror tropes, it feels more like a peripheral threat to Char's story. As if Dolan is pointing a finger at real-life horrors that people endure every day, while focusing on a larger-than-life plot about Changelings and Samhain.
You Are Not My Mother is filled with metaphor, folklore, and cleverly crafted allusions that must be watched to fully understand. With this as Dolan’s first official entry into the horror realm, I look forward to seeing what Irish tales she borrows from next. She has a knack for building tension with her direction choices, naturally crafting suspense and uncertainty.
You Are Not My Mother had its world premiere this week at the Toronto International Film Festival. A release date has not yet been set.
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