YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER (2021)
Directed by Katie Dolan
Typically Irish horror has a behavior of grounding itself in centuries-old lore. Movies like The Hallow, The Lodgers, Wake Wooden and The Gap In The Floor all situate themselves towards the backdrop of native legends and tales. Whereas Kate Dolan’s completed debut, You Are Not My Mom, could instantly conjure up associations with Kat and Zoe Slater in EastEnders, it’s a part of this custom. It’s a contemporary tackle tales about fairies (very completely different from the fairy tales you seemingly grew up on) and changelings, i.e., sprites that exchange a stolen little one or child.
Char, brief for Sharon, is a vibrant however troubled woman – the alienated geek who skipped a 12 months at college however all the time eats alone at lunch. When she isn’t having creepy desires about burning infants, she’s being bullied by the native imply women (who additionally appear to crush on her). At the very least she has her household for help, proper? Nope: her mum has very obvious psychological well being points and crashes the automotive on the best way to highschool, pondering she’s seen a horse on the street. To make issues worse, that is the final time Char sees her as later that day she’s vanished, leaving nothing however a purchasing basket. Rita, Char’s grandma, is satisfied she’ll come again – and certain sufficient, she does. However there’s one thing somewhat completely different about her. For a begin, she’s glad now!
You Are Not My Mom wears its premise on its sleeve, and from the second she returns Angela is evidently not the identical girl we met at the start. Her change isn’t offered as a twist. But what’s attention-grabbing is it’s performed as bittersweet: Char wrestles with this obtrusive reality as a result of she desires to consider her mum has gotten higher. It’s an emotionally difficult thought and one I’d prefer to see explored extra. Sadly, at occasions the film appears to do the naked minimal characterisation. Most notably, what needs to be the movie’s central relationship appears underdeveloped, with little time to get to know the mom/daughter dynamic earlier than the change takes place. It doesn’t assist that Angela is a little bit of a clean slate, regardless of a strong bodily efficiency from Carolyn Bracken. There’s a courageous premise in exploring when an individual’s psychological well being points can intrude with them having the ability to present look after their very own child. But with the specifics of her situation being so imprecise, past a vacant look and a single muttered phrase. For that matter, it’d be good to be taught extra about Angela rising up with Rita – fairly than the latter feeling like she’s there as a supply of exposition.
Therefore whereas it has momentum, no imply feat contemplating the menace is held at bay for nearly your entire factor, it lacks dramatic stakes. That being stated, I unexpectedly discovered myself extra invested in Char’s evolving friendship with Suzanne – one of many bullies at first, who turns into nicer because the story goes on. Each come from damaged properties and have responded to their circumstances in a different way. And although Suzanne doesn’t know what’s occurring with Char, their scenes are among the many film’s most emotionally participating. Hazel Doupe additionally does a superb job of portraying a teen carrying the world’s weight on little shoulders. And whereas her passiveness means the movie briefly lulls into repetition in the course of the second act, she captures Char’s journey effectively. And it’s an honest journey! By way of the precise plot beats, if not the characterisation, it’s a wealthy and complicated story that does a exceptional job of promoting its fantastical components – very like a sure cult traditional that it does a enjoyable visible reference too.
Whereas it will have been welcome for it to commit extra to being a folksy movie, or embracing the generational trauma it’s clearly supposed to symbolise, it establishes its premise and provides layer after layer to it. A neat growth on the finish of the second act ups the ante, resulting in an intense finale. These kinds of movies typically peter out in direction of the tip, although I feel the pay-off right here lives as much as the build-up. For a debut, it’s assured storytelling. It additionally appears spectacular too. Dolan skilfully juxtaposes the wide-open areas exterior household home with its small cluttered corridors – solely including to the claustrophobia and the sensation of not being secure at dwelling. Her framing is exemplary: characters seen askew or via doorframes trace at one thing beneath the floor we’re however not fairly seeing.