You Are Not My Mother

04/12/2022 06:31

Film: You Are Not My Mother

Year: 2021

Director: Kate Dolan

Writer: Kate Dolan

Starring: Hazel Doupe, Carolyn Bracken and Paul Reid



This is a movie that I heard about by going to the Gateway Film Center. I saw part of the trailer and knew it was one that I was going to see. Jaime was intrigued by this one as well. She didn’t get the chance to come with me due scheduling issues. I made sure to see this one during opening weekend of it playing there. This is one that I knew Duncan from the Podcast Under the Stairs liked. I also believe the guys from Scott and Liam vs. Evil also enjoyed.

Synopsis: in a North Dublin housing estate, Char’s (Hazel Doupe) mother goes missing. When she returns, Char is determined to uncover the truth of her disappearance and unearth the dark secrets of her family.

We start with seeing a baby in a stroller. A woman takes her into the woods, places the baby in a circle and then starts a fire around it. The movie then shifts into the present day. We are following Char. She overslept and partially blames this on her grandmother, Rita (Ingrid Craigie). She asks for a ride to school as she is going to be late due to missing her bus. Her grandmother cannot do it. She is told to see if her mother can take her. When she goes into her mother’s room, she looks rough. Her mother is Angela (Carolyn Bracken).

This drive to school is an odd one. Char asks her mother about how she is doing and if she can go by the store for food. Angela says she is tired. This upsets her daughter. We see an interesting flip here with the younger woman being more grown up due to how her mother is acting. This will be a theme for sure.

Char is bullied in school. We see it first with Suzanne (Jordanne Jones). She is a bigger girl. What I find interesting here is the more we learn about this character. The two of them have similar stories. The worst bully turns out to be Suzanne’s friend of Kelly (Katie White). She seems in part doing this to show off and takes things too far.

Things get worse for Char when she is walking home from school. She sees her mother’s car, but she is nowhere around. She comes home to inform her grandmother. Rita brings her son, Aaron (Paul Reid), in to help. They call the police, but there isn’t much they can do. How the car was left makes them question though. Later that night, Angela returns. She isn’t acting how she normally does though. There are times she seems normal and Char is happy. It takes a dark turn though. Char learns secrets that explain a scar on her face and the truth of this woman that looks like her mother but could be something else. Something that is scarier than she can imagine.

That is where I’m going to leave fleshing out the synopsis and introducing our characters. Where I want to start then with breaking things down is that we are getting a character study of Char. She lives in a lower income area from what I’m gathering. Her family has a nice enough house, but I’m taking it is middle to lower class. Part of this is due to her mother, Angela. She is struggling. This will shift into my first social commentary aspect. For the longest time with this movie, I was questioning if there was going to be a creature or if this was a commentary on mental illness. It feels like it is showing us that Angela is bipolar. We are seeing her in depressed states where she can barely get out of bed. We then see her manic. During the latter, she is fun to be around. It is when she crashes that it becomes scary. We are seeing this from Char’s eyes which would be tough way to grow up.

Something else that this gives us is a commentary on bullying. Char is a good student. The movie subtly shows that in school with Ms. Devlin (Jade Jordan). This teacher is worried about her. I’m guessing most of these students have similar backgrounds. She sees that Char has potential as she moved ahead a grade. Suzanne, Kelly and that group don’t like her. Her family has a reputation, which is part of it. The movie is interesting though when Suzanne learns of what happened to Char’s mother and they build a kinship. Suzanne has a dark past of her own. I found this to be an interesting story to develop. It is effective as Char is dealing with a lot at home. Giving her a friend like this is good as it would be a bit too depressing in my opinion.

Now where I want to go next would be the horror elements. For the longest time, I was wondering if this was going to be a family drama. I won’t reveal what the creature in this movie is or if there really is one or not, but I guessed it. There were subtle hints dropped early, which I enjoyed. It feels like a reward for those who know the lore. For a good part, there is a logical explanation. This could be mental illness as I’ve said. We have Angela showing signs of being bipolar. We also have Rita following lore, which could also be a sign of mental illness. Char seeing the things that she does might not be real or even at the climax, Angela could have a mental break like the bullies say. I personally think there’s a monster here with how things play out. I do like this allowing you wonder and make up your mind.

That should be enough for the story so I’ll move to the acting. I thought that Doupe was good as our lead. She is someone that is showing her homelife wearing on her. She doesn’t have all the opportunities but making the best of what she can. Her mother is struggling and her grandmother can only do so much. She is also a victim of bullying. I think that she wears her emotions which was good. There is strength that she develops as well. Bracken was good as her mother as well. I love that she is happy and fun, but then can show us a dark side as well. It worked for what was needed there. I liked Reid, White, Craigie, Jones and the rest of the cast as well. They push our two leads to where they need to end up in the end.

The last things to go into would be with filmmaking. I’ll start with the effects which were good. I’ll also pull in the cinematography here as this movie is shot beautifully. We get some great things with mirrors. I like when we see a character, but their reflection is showing something else. That is creepy. There did seem to be a combination of practical effects and CGI. I thought they worked well. I didn’t have any issues. As for the soundtrack, it didn’t necessarily stand out to me. They did do some creepy things with hearing bumping above someone or scary sounds from a different room. That was effective. The musical choices did help build the atmosphere so I give credit there.

In conclusion here, I thought this was a solid movie. We get an interesting character study of Char where homelife and how she is treated is difficult. It is also incorporating potentially a creature as well. It is one that I’ve seen more of in recent years, which I don’t mind when handled correctly. They do well with allowing us as a viewer to determine what we are seeing. The acting was good. The effects were solid. I thought this was shot well as that helps to hide things. There is beautiful framing as well. The soundtrack and design did help to build the atmosphere. I thought this was above average with my first viewing. I’ve come up with this second viewing and now think this is good. It is also a contender for my year end top ten.


My Rating: 8 out of 10