You Are Not My Mother Image

Writer-director Kate Dolan’s feature-length debut, You Are Not My Mother, follows high school student Char (Hazel Doupe), who is having a rough go as of late. Her classmates bully her, though her teacher genuinely cares. At home, grandma Rita (Ingrid Craigie) is barely able to keep things together, while her mom, Angela (Carolyn Bracken), is suffering from something (depression maybe) that keeps her bedridden most of the time.

One day, Char is running late for school, and Angela has to give her a ride. But, after dropping her daughter off, Angela abandons the car, setting off a search for her. Finally, after several hours, she returns home. However, her mood swings are more erratic, and she’s acting strangely, even for her. Char knows something is up and sets about to understand what truly happened to her mother, or who/what-ever this now is.

Yes, You Are Not My Mother gives a tiny spoiler within its title. Upon returning, Angela is different and not her usual self. The fun comes in figuring out just why or how she’s much more feral and intense. To that end, despite a few odd details (motivations for the bullies are elusive and seemingly change on a dime), Dolan manages to keep the intrigue high and draws audiences in thanks to strong characters. Char is relatable, caring, and everyone watching will root for her. Angela stating that she “can’t do this anymore” before disappearing says just about everything anyone needs to know about her original persona. Quick, efficient, excellent.

“…after dropping her daughter off, Angela abandons the car…Upon returning, Angela is different…”

To that end, much of the intensity and drama of the story rest with Doupe and Bracken. They deliver in a big way. Doupe is charismatic and sweet, meaning even when she’s being awkwardly passive (again, the bullying), audiences understand her character and their motivation. Bracken’s primal dancing shortly after coming back is so compelling and threatening that it’s impossible to look away.

Fantastic supporting players help them at every turn. Craigie plays Rita with the right amount of heart and mystery. Paul Reid is memorable in his brief role as Char’s Uncle Aaron. As frustrating as the bullies can be, the actors portraying them are great, bringing a real menace to their parts, despite feeling shoehorned in. The scene when the main mean girl is threatening to burn Char’s face is harrowing, as Katie White sells the malevolence. 

On top of the great cast, You Are Not My Mother is a visual feast. Narayan Van Maele’s cinematography captures the creepy nooks and crannies of the Irish suburbs while still remaining in the real world. The lighting is also just as strong, with the standout happening in a museum; you’ll know it when you see it.

While Dolan may not be able to balance all the subplots in an organic way, the main narrative is gripping as hell. You Are Not My Mother burrows underneath the nerves and stays there. It accomplishes this thanks to the amazing cast and strong visuals, which are ideally suited to the intense material.

You Are Not My Mother (2022)

Directed and Written: Kate Dolan

Starring: Hazel Doupe, Carolyn Bracken, Ingrid Craigie, Paul Reid, Katie White, etc.

Movie score: 9/10

You Are Not My Mother Image

"…a visual feast."

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