TIFF Review: 'You Are Not My Mother' Is a Must-Watch for Fans of Classic Horror Directed by Kate Dolan

Starring Hazel Doupe, Carolyn Bracken, Ingrid Craigie
TIFF Review: 'You Are Not My Mother' Is a Must-Watch for Fans of Classic Horror Directed by Kate Dolan
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Kate Dolan's You Are Not My Mother is grounded in the rich soil of Irish folklore, and what emerges is a viscerally terrifying and enervating tale about motherhood and mental illness. Carried by an enigmatic young actress, this movie is gripping from the first frame, pumping fear into viewers' veins until the last minute. A testament to good old-fashioned horror, this is a must-watch.

It's almost Halloween and Angela (Carolyn Bracken), the mentally ill mother of Char (Hazel Doupe), disappears after dropping her daughter off at school. After a half-hearted search by the police, Angela reappears and Char is ecstatic because her mother has returned with a warmth she never showed before her disappearance. Char's grandmother (Ingrid Craigie), however, is on high alert, because this isn't the same Angela. As things grow increasingly dire, a rift grows between grandmother and granddaughter, as Char begins defending the strange and frankly scary Angela against her grandmother's efforts to get to the bottom of the changed personality. 

Dolan and Doupe deftly strike a deeply-embedded nerve through their depiction of a child's fear of a mentally ill parent. It's in the way, before Angela disappears and after she returns, that Char gives Angela's room a wide berth as she walks past it; it's in the way Char has to build up the courage to ask Angela to drive her to school at the very start of the film. This underlying fear — in addition to the stellar visual terrors — creates a doomed and tense atmosphere in You Are Not My Mother. A wonderful excavation of fear of the mother, this tale is stunningly executed and told. It's a must for Halloween.

The 2021 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 9 to 18. Get info about in-person and online screenings at the festival website. (Fantastic Films)