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  You Are Not My Mother Time To Face The Strange Changes
Year: 2021
Director: Kate Dolan
Stars: Hazel Doupe, Carolyn Bracken, Paul Reid, Jade Jordan, Katie White, Ingrid Craigie, Jordanne Jones, Miriam Devitt, Aoife Spratt, Martin O'Sullivan, Madi O'Carroll, Colin Peppard, Florence Adebambo
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: A baby buggy stands in the middle of this Dublin street, apparently abandoned until a woman appears and pushes it away... away to the nearby woods where the woman builds a fire and begins a ritual with the flames, planning to burn the infant to death. Some years later, was the child saved or was its original version restored? It seems the latter, for Char (Hazel Doupe) is now a bullied teen who though she does well at her lessons, is ostracised by her peers and only one of the teachers tries to reach out to her. Char knows better than to respond too positively to that, but it is her mother she should be worried about...

Kate Dolan made her feature debut with one of those horrors that are rooted in the real world, and by the real world it's an atmosphere of urban bleakness, where neighbours are hostile, the police are useless, and there's a feeling anyone can tip over into mental illness at any moment, given the right (or wrong) circumstances. Therefore there was enough to disturb about the locals without the intrusion of the supernatural, and Dolan could have easily gone the Eden Lake route and made the point about how horrible ordinary folks can be. However, she had more on her menu than that, and wanted to mix in folky chills too.

Hauntology is a word that is bandied about a lot to describe something nasty lurking in the woods, and there were woods in this as well just in case we didn't get the references, which in the main were to do with the concept of the changeling, a venerable tradition that was adopted to explain away bad behaviour or problematic issues with babies and children for centuries. This was before psychology appeared to offer more concrete explanations, and there was a tension between the authorities' version of events, that Char's concerns were centred around mental illness in herself and others, and the folk wisdom variation.

That was embodied by Char's gran Rita (Ingrid Craigie), who is so steeped in the traditions of the folkloric that we note with interest it was she who burned the baby at the beginning (as far as we can work out). As this progresses, we are constantly wondering whether the events we are watching are happening in reality or whether some mass psychosis is occurring in Char's family, especially after her mother Angela (Carolyn Bracken) disappears after an apparent episode while driving her car back from the shops. When she returns hours later, she seems completely unbothered by the experience, to the point of mania, but does this indicate she has been replaced by an adult changeling as a baby might be in those traditional fears?

It's a strong concept for a chiller, and though Dolan opted for the deliberate pacing to build tension until all Hell broke loose in the final act, thanks to low key, almost numb performances from key players it did keep you watching, waiting for the resolution. Have the bullies sent Char around the bend? Are the bullies in fact mentally ill? Certainly one of them who takes her irrational hatred as far as planning murder came across as utterly off her rocker and in need of years of therapy to rid herself of her venal obsession, though another has an attack of conscience and becomes Char's friend, though she too is haunted by the weirdness surrounding the teenage girl. If there was a drawback here, it was in marrying the paranormally evil to the mundane, everyday evil, which did not quite carry, and in truth it was a fairly unpleasant watch, but wasn't that the general intention? Music by Die Hexen.

[Signature Entertainment and FrightFest Presents release You Are Not My Mother in UK Cinemas and Digital 8 April 2022.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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