You Are Not My Mother is a horror movie based on Irish folklore. When Char’s mother returns after her sudden disappearance, there is something different about her. She seems more upbeat and active than she was before. As Char learns more about her family’s past, she comes to discover there may be a sinister reason behind the sudden transformation. But is there anything she can do about it?
The film takes place around Halloween and has an opening that will remind people of covens and secret gatherings in the woods. Despite the typical horror movie trappings to begin the film, You Are Not My Mother is a patient film. The story wants audiences to get to know its characters before taking a deep dive into the scarier aspects. It moves at a patient pace that pulls audience into its story.
Char and her mother Angela get the most attention. Even before she went missing, it was clear something was bothering Angela. As You Are Not My Mother progresses it explores themes of mental illness. The idea and foundation are solid, but it still feels like something is missing. There are some throwaway lines that give an idea of what may have been troubling Angela, but it is never clear.
You Are Not My Mother does a much better job with Char. She is quiet and withdrawn from others at school. She has learned to put up a protective wall and does not speak about her family to others. When she finally does make a friend, her defenses break down suddenly. After years of shutting herself off, it is obviously a relief to let someone in. She has been through a lot and the audience will find it easy to root for her.
There is a great sense of atmosphere and tension. Much of this is based around the anticipation and apprehension surrounding what has happened to Angela. The reveal is well done and ties back to the beginning. It is at this point You Are Not My Mother becomes more of a traditional horror movie. The plot eases into its final moment. Fans of character driven horror stories will enjoy this.
The Toronto International Film Festival takes place from September 9 – September 18
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