The Reel Review
A teenager in a working-class neighborhood in North Dublin tries to find out why her mother’s personality has changed so drastically after a brief, inexplicable disappearance just before Halloween. The girl gradually uncovers horrible family secrets, in this Irish psychological horror/thriller.
In her feature directorial debut, writer/director Kate Dolan wraps her tale of childhood trauma in suffocating dread and despair, smartly incorporating dim lighting, a depressing house and an unsettling score to capture its dreary mood. Hazel Doupe (Float Like a Butterfly, Smother) channels the trauma as the insecure, friendless teenager, with Carolyn Bracken (The Lodgers) as her emotionally volatile mother and Ingrid Craigie as her superstitious grandmother. It begs the question – is mom mentally ill, or is something supernatural actually afoot?
The story itself is a bit murky on details, intentionally leading the viewer to make up his or her own mind about what is going on. And the action is much more of a slow burn than all out, jump scare-filled horror. But You Are Not My Mother still has plenty of creepy moments and Irish folklore about fairies and changelings to keep the suspense going right up to the end credits. It’s an impressive, thought-provoking debut.
• You Are Not My Mother was filmed in North Dublin, Ireland.
• You Are Not My Mother writer/director Kate Dolan, who started her career directing commercials, music videos and short films, in 2019 was listed as one of Ireland’s leading creative talents under 30.
• Irish folklore describes changelings as fairies left in place of a human baby stolen by fairies. In medieval times, children with deformities, illnesses or then unexplained medical conditions were thought to have been replaced by changelings.