You Are Not My Mother (2021) poster

You Are Not My Mother (2021)


Ireland. 2021.


Director/Screenplay – Kate Dolan, Producer – Deirdre Levins, Photography – Narayan Van Maele, Music – Die Hexen, Visual Effects Supervisor – Ian Benjamin Kenny, Special Effects – Film FX (Supervisors – Adam Byrne & Brendan Byrne), Makeup Design – Madonna Bambino, Production Design – Lauren Kelly. Production Company – Fis Eiraan (Screen Ireland)/Fantastic Films.


Hazel Doupe (Char Delaney), Carolyn Bracken (Angela Delaney), Ingrid Craigie (Rita Delaney), Jordanne Jones (Suzanne O’Connell), Paul Reid (Aaron Delaney), Katie White (Kelly), Florence Adebambo (Amanda), Jade Jordan (Ms Devlin), Aoifre Spratt (Officer Jenny)


Teenager Char Delaney’s mother Angela drives her to school. During the ride, Char notices Angela behaving oddly where she cryptically says she cannot keep doing this. When Char leaves school, she finds the car abandoned in the middle of a field and her mother missing. The police are alerted about her disappearance but Angela turns up again several days later. Subsequently, Char’s father and grandmother become very concerned for Angela’s mental health. Char is unwilling to accept that something has happened to her mother but finds her mother’s actions increasingly disturbed, turning violent and then murderous. At the same time, Char begins to discover secrets about her own childhood.

You Are Not My Mother was a directorial debut for Irish director Kate Dolan. The film received reasonable acclaim after premiering the Toronto International Film Festival and appearing at various other festivals.

Kate Dolan shoots her film in some of Dublin’s more economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods. The landscape is endless tracts of council housing estates and dreary interiors. It is a film of silences and quietudes, where the characters seem surrounded by dim lighting and the dialogues barely rises above a mutter – I had to crank the sound on the home entertainment system well above normal to hear most of what was being said.

For a time, I had the pleasing uncertainty of not knowing where You Are Not My Mother was going. The presence of ritual Celtic knots given as protection and placed under hospital beds and then the later talk about the thinning between this world and that of faerie suggests that we are well into the territory of Folk Horror. Meanwhile, the increasing strangeness of Carolyn Bracken’s actions following her return suggests something of a Body Snatchers film.

Hazel Doupe and her mother Carolyn Bracken in You Are Not My Mother (2021)
(l to r) Hazel Doupe and her mother Carolyn Bracken

The return of Carolyn Bracken goes in all sorts of mad sideways directions with her sinister kitchen concoctions, her over-friendly insistence that Hazel Doupe come away with her and then increasingly unhinged scenes where she attacks Hazel’s bullies and does ‘something’ we never see to freak out Hazel’s friend Jordanne Jones. That is all before she walks out into the middle of a lake, poisons husband Paul Reid with an overdose of lithium and then put on music before dancing and madly pawing the floor like a dog in front of Hazel.

By the end of the film, Kate Dolan has built the material to an unsettlingly disturbed place – one that in a seeming in-reference to The Wicker Man (1973) has Hazel Doupe and Carolyn Bracken about to be burned alive in a mini-scale wicker man of a Halloween bonfire. Everything builds from the subdued quiet of the opening scenes to an all-out intensity by the end of the film. It’s quite a promising ride from a novice director.

Trailer here

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