Monday, September 13, 2021

You Are Not My Mother: Movie Review

A slow-burn horror with strong atmosphere and direction.

You Are Not My Mother is a slow-burn horror-drama based on an Irish folklore. I’m not familiar with this Irish folklore but it doesn’t seem to be a hindrance. The direction the story takes is clear, how the ending plays out is creepy without any unexpected twists – in other words, it fits the genre without shocking twists. This should be a homerun for fans of slow-burn horror movies.   2021

Directed by: Kate Dolan

Screenplay by: Kate Dolan

Starring: Hazel Doupe, Jade Jordan

It’s set in Ireland during Halloween, and one of the many things writer-director Kate Dolan gets right is establish the atmosphere. You can feel the crispness in the autumn air, the breeze feels cooler, the days are shorter. Things are going to take a turn for the worse.

Things are already bad for our lead character Char (Hazel Doupe) she’s bullied at school, has no friends, has a depressed mother who can’t hold down a job and can’t even bother to get necessary groceries. Char’s only a teenager, whose abilities to help are limited. The rest of her family, her maternal grandmother and uncle, say that’s just what she’s like and don’t do much to help.

Then her mother goes missing. Char finds her car – abandoned, doors wide open, parked in the middle of the field – obviously something has gone wrong. But grandmother and uncle say that she does things like this from time to time and the police become less concerned.

Char is a very sympathetic character. You just want one adult to step up and do the right thing and help her get through life. I could not determine if the mother is supposed to be a sympathetic character – either before or after her mysterious return. I suspect the audience is intended to sympathize with her, but there’s definitely a disconnect there. An emotional connection not formed which may have helped keep the interest level up.

The second half of the movie plays up some dichotomies – Char’s mother who is most certainly not her mother helps Char make friends more than her actual mother ever could. A friend, who is also her bully, might help Char realize the dysfunction in her family.

This is Kate Dolan’s first feature film and the assuredness in the direction is remarkable. There is a confidence in every shot; a meticulously constructed film with striking cinematography, editing that matches the tone, and a very clear progression for the story.

The slowness at the beginning is crucial to help the audience absorb the atmosphere, connect with Char, and let them form their own opinions on where things might go. It does drag a bit in the middle, waiting for the payoff. It’s smaller than your typical horror film, so the ending has a smaller ‘bang’. But I really hope this movie gets a Halloween release and I hope the right audience gets to see it.