Some horror movies can operate on ambience alone. Most can’t. You Are Not My Mother, a tonally compelling but narratively bland thriller, ultimately murmurs, “you are not the movie for me.”
Kate Dolan, in her feature length directorial debut, has made an aesthetically pleasing little film that feels born from the womb of the shadows of North Dublin. But it also feels and plays like your routine first-time indie thriller, where the filmmaker is too reliant on character expressions and delivering a sense of mild foreboding than giving the audience something worth remembering. With Dolan, you see wisps of talent but there just isn’t enough here to justify the time investment.
You Are Not My Mother begins with a bang, a shot of a woman submitting a crying baby to fire. That’s some pretty dark shit. But then we snap to modern day, with teenager Char (Hazel Doupe) discovering that her depressed mother has vanished. When she returns, something is off, different, and Char begins to suspect others in her family may know what the hell is going on.
One of the movie’s biggest problems is that Dolan, who also wrote the screenplay, waits too long for the big reveal. You Are Not My Mother is only 90 minutes long, yet the first two acts drag; the pieces are there, but they don’t come together nor do they really hint at what’s to come. Mystery is fine, even welcome, but the dark finale seems slightly unearned. Or at least too little too late.
There are elements to like–Dolan nails some effective scenes, especially toward the end, and Doupe makes for a worthy protagonist, even if she feels restrained but her understated character–and those looking for a taste of a new, burgeoning horror filmmaker may be drawn to this film.
Sadly, You Are Not My Mother simply doesn’t offer anything unique–and some malevolent ambience isn’t enough.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.