REVIEW: You Are Not My Mother (2021)

dir. Kate Dolan

According to lore, a “changeling” is where sinister faerie folk swap a human child for a fae baby. But what if it wasn’t a child that was switched, but the mother?

Despite being a country rich in folkloric traditions, Ireland’s contribution to folk horror cinema has rather paled in comparison to her British or America cousins, historically portraying the stereotypical urbanite couple who move to the countryside only to be plagued by shifty eyed locals, pagan magic and faerie-like creatures. It’s unfortunate to say such offerings have been rather anaemic. Until now. 

Despite being set in inner city North Dublin, Kate Dolan’s feature debut is steeped in traditional Irish culture and folk beliefs, a rich history and heritage permeating the story and reinvigorating the changeling trope into something truly terrifying. From being set at Samhain – the time of year believed to be when the veil between our world and the next is at its thinnest – to the cross of St Bríd hanging in the central family’s kitchen, and the striking image of the black horse symbolising the Púca derailing a car journey, You Are Not My Mother is a quintessential portrayal of an Ireland that is not only haunted by its ghosts and goblins, but also by a systemic failure of its mental health services. 

For in this young Charlotte (Hazel Doupe) must come to terms with her mother Angela’s (Carolyn Bracken) mental illness, and the dark secret that envelopes her family. Performances from both women are intense and flawless, creating a dichotomy of a parent / child relationship struggling under unbearable weight and played out through the eyes of a child as she bares witness to her mother succumbing to a monstrous transformation. 

You Are Not My Mother is proof that Ireland is fast becoming one of the leading producers of first class horror, along with the likes of Japan and Korea, pumping out emotion-fuelled nightmare fodder. This is the folk horror movie that Ireland deserves, and will hopefully become a beacon for what the country is capable of going forward. 


Ygraine Hackett-Cantabrana

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