Frightfest Glasgow: You Are Not My Mother (2022)

Director: Kate Dolan

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Hazel Doupe, Carolyn Bracken, Paul Reid, Jade Jordan, Ingrid Craigie, Jordanne Jones, Katie White

Opening on an image as upsetting as it is simple, writer/director Kate Dolan wrong-foots viewers by showing a baby alone outside at night. Things only grow more horrific when a mysterious figure takes the baby into the woods for distressing purposes, serving as an attention-grabbing way to begin things.

In North Dublin, Char (Hazel Doupe) is shocked by the inexplicable disappearance of her mother, Angela (Carolyn Bracken). After returning home without explanation, Angela's increasingly frightening behaviour leaves Char certain something is wrong. She may look and sound the same, yet it's like a malevolent force has replaced the mother.

It's clear things are tough between mother and daughter, as difficulties lie in Char asking her mother for a lift to school. Angela seems dazed and unengaged with many things, as these issues bear down on Char while she's left friendless and bullied at school. Doupe and Bracken wonderfully convey this difficult relationship, as Char just wants her mother to be okay through it all.

Through the lens of mental illness and bullying, Dolan depicts Irish folklore for an engrossing mixture of social realism and fairy tales. Tensions build as Angela's mood swings veer from joyful to threatening, while mother-daughter bonding turns insidious. It comes to ahead in the nail-biting third act, where horrifying history and unbelievable mythology blend together for a Halloween-set finale. What's left is a confident debut feature, ready to leave viewers unsettled and emotional.

You Are Not My Mother played at Frightfest Glasgow. Available in cinemas and on Digital from April 8th.