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  • Writer's pictureSteve

You Are Not My Mother (2021)

The opening shot should tell you quite a bit. It should tell you that what you are witnessing here is not your average horror/thriller. There are not many Directors that would start with a baby in a stroller, seemingly abandoned in the middle of the street at night. A hint, perhaps, that what is coming is more than just a series of jump scares. Kate Dolan clearly has a reserved space in her marrow for darkness.

Shortly, we're introduced to a seemingly dysfunctional Irish family, a matriarchy it would seem, of three generations. Potentially bewildered Grandmother, troubled, mostly depressed and often unconscious mother and concerned but academically bright daughter. Their lives seem as grey and overcast as the skies above their heads, until one day with the final words of "I don't think I can do this anymore," the mother disappears, after dropping off her daughter at school and nearly hitting a horse standing in the middle of the road. Well, it is Ireland.

The tension is palpable and Dolan does a great job of suggesting as much, with the absent-minded scratching of material by helpless, unemployed fingers, lost for what to do in uncomfortable environments, with shots that deliberately linger maybe just slightly too long, silently pressing and accusatory. The mother returns within a day and so begins the quest to discover the meaning behind the title of the film, as she appears to be an individual far removed from the woman that disappeared.

This has moments of serenity and quiet contemplation, not unlike Under The Skin, where the threat of potentially visceral horror bubbles like a simmering mud pool, beneath a very fragile surface. The acting by everyone is excellent and contributes to this already cloying feeling of inevitable doom the permeates everything we witness, even at its most domestic.

It seems so stultifyingly average, in fact, that the film makes you wonder if these are not the actions of an overactive imagination on the part of the youngest of this family and that maybe her coming-of-age, garish dreams and school bullying are not the catalyst for her feelings that something is very strange about her mother, a feeling that seems particular to her and not apparently her Grandmother or Uncle.

In all this is quite a sedate affair for the majority of its runtime, with a definite nod to a limited budget, Pagan mythology and the pitfalls of coming-of-age. It is put together very well indeed, with effective scripting and acting, even if the pace seems a little off kilter at times, but I'm just nit-picking. A very prickly piece of patient cinema and so much better than expected from Dolan who we can confidently imagine has a very bright future given what she has offered us here.


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