Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 2022: You Are Not My Mother

Kate Dolan’s powerful examination of a household in turmoil provides heaps of atmosphere.

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

Horror that examines three generations of women trying to exist in the same space is having something of a moment in horror. Notably, Relic and A Banquet both adopt a similar structure in exploring how family trauma trickles through grandmothers, mothers and daughters. You Are Not My Mother shares further similarities with Relic, involving reappearances that are arguably more mysterious than the initial disappearance. Despite sharing an overarching theme, all three of these films retain their own strong sense of identity and confident directorial voices.

The film kicks off with an arrestingly dark and impactful scene that acts as a great tone-setter for what is to follow. After this, we first see Char’s (Hazel Doupe) home life as a sad one, a space full of whispers and disorder. Struggling to get to school on time, her ailing grandmother (Ingrid Craigie) is unable to take her, telling her to ask her mother, Angela (Carolyn Bracken) instead. It is clear from the outset that there are severe tensions at work. Angela and Char’s drive to the school is a fraught one, ending in an argument which feels like familiar territory for the pair. After Angela disappears, there is almost an acceptance from everyone but when she returns just as suddenly as she has left, her behaviour is even more concerning.

Carolyn Bracken delivers an electric performance, by turns sullen and even near-catatonic to sudden bursts of frenetic energy. Those energetic bursts make for some of the film’s most memorable moments with Bracken entirely embodying both states. Hazel Doupe is also fantastic in her role, embodying the nervous energy that comes from living with such unpredictable circumstances. The scenes where the pair are together have a heavy sadness to them, especially in moments where the possibility of a ‘normal’ relationship between them feels within reach. The troubled history of the family looms large over every interaction

Kate Dolan uses overt horror imagery sparingly at first, offering glimpses without pay-off for some of the runtime. This tendency to hold back does however, mean that those pay-offs are incredibly impactful and fully commit to the imagery it has so carefully teased. Without the need to fill the film with unnecessary jolts or false scares, what emerges is an incredible control over the film’s oppressive atmosphere. In amongst the horror and mythology, the more real-world fears also pack a punch, presenting the area that Char finds herself in as one of constant threat, with little comfort to be found either at home or school. Refreshingly, when these scares appear they are fully-formed and incorporated into the more down-to-earth scenes.

You Are Not My Mother is a darkly magical tale, with plenty of impactful scares, underpinned by incredible performances that make this a must-see.

4.5 out of 5 stars

4.5 out of 5 stars

You Are Not My Mother played the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival. More information on the festival is available from their webpage. It also plays as part of Glasgow FrightFest 2022.

Author: ScaredSheepless

Film and television fan, with a particular love for horror.

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