“You Are Not My Mother” is one of those films in which what you see is what’s happening. One need not break his or her head thinking about the inherent meanings and symbols because everything is spread out on a platter. This is what makes the film watchable. The subject, the gloomy atmosphere, and the background score, all of these come together to make “You Are Not My Mother” true to its nature. Moreover, it is able to portray its intentions while hiding the things that make the overall plot even more interesting.
‘You Are Not My Mother’ Plot Summary
Charlotte, AKA Char (Hazel Doupe), has a rough teenage childhood, one whose condition is worsened by her mother Angela’s (Carolyn Bracken) physical and mental state. One day, on the way to drop Char off at her school, Angela almost hits a horse when Char frantically takes the wheel and saves its life (as well as theirs, probably). She then gets out of the car and walks to school. While returning from her all-girls school, after undergoing bullying at the hands of her classmates, she discovers their car abandoned at the same spot with the driver’s door wide open. Police are unable to find out where Angela has gone and suggest waiting.
Her grandmother, Angela’s mother, Rita, and her uncle Aaron, are distraught. But this is until Angela returns home one night. She is a changed person, and according to Char’s grandma, the change is sinister in nature. While Angela shows renewed love and affection for Char, there is an eerie unfamiliarity attached to them. From the looks of it and the words of Char’s grandma’s, there are age-old powers at play, and they are not here to make friends.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Like Mother Like Daughter
When Rita tells Char about her mother, she mentions how hard a period it was for young Angela when Char was born. While this is all that we come to know of Angela’s young years, it does give us the impression that she had a tough time taking care of Char when she was a baby, one that did take a toll on her mental health. And the word “young” does seem to point to her teenage years, at about the same age as Char’s at present.
Char, too has her own share of troubles and issues, including the sexually-charged bullying by her schoolmates. And she has also had to endure her mother’s eerie behavior for seemingly far too long. Now, this can be the result of either of two things; she was either subjected to her mother’s outpour of suppressed rage that resulted from what all she went through when she was a young woman with her baby (Char). Or, she was manipulated by the very fairies in whose possession she once left Char by the river, in exchange for a changeling. Either way, both mother and daughter have had their share of troubled youth.
When Char goes on a trip to what seems to be some kind of museum, we learn about how, in folklore, rivers, lakes, and caves are considered to be the spaces that connect our world to the other world, and from there, fairies could enter our world or even lead humans to their world. Interestingly, when Char was a baby, she too was discovered by a river after being abandoned by her mother, Angela, who apparently didn’t remember where she had been. In fact, Char’s grandma also mentions how, after she was brought back, they realized that it wasn’t her but a changeling, i.e., a child substituted by fairies for a human child during infancy. Her grandma had to bring Char to a fire in order to send back her changeling self, which is perhaps the only way to get rid of a changeling.
Now, it seems that while Char was brought back to her human form by her grandma, the fairies didn’t let go of their hold on Angela’s mind. She has probably been in and out of her lost mental state ever since the incident by the river, and all these are the fairies’ doings only to get their hands on Char. According to Irish folklore, fairies would take a human baby and hand it to the devil or use it to strengthen their count. However, we do not know why the fairies are still following her now that she is almost an adult. But then again, there is no logic to such workings of the supernatural.
Families Are The Scariest Thing On The Planet
“You Are Not My Mother” seems to be a supernatural take on what happens when parents are unable to nurture their kids properly that sometimes takes the shape of domestic horror. Dysfunctional parents, in this case, Angela, can sometimes become as terrifying as fairies in their way of preventing the child from living and breathing in his or her own place in society by turning him or her into a different person, one who is avoided by others and told not to interact with, almost to the point of being terrified of (like fairies and other beings from the native folklore).
The way Angela has been, probably all her life, has taken its toll on Char and turned her into the way she is now. She keeps to herself most of the time and avoids talking to others unless required. However, she does find solace in her bully-turned-friend Suzanne, but that too seems temporary as Suzanne is scared away by Angela who has at that point almost turned into a fairy, but not one that we have all come to imagine. There is also another angle to the horror in that the film does show two of its three leading women to be “evil” for their lack of the instincts of a mother. So, even before the fairies are established, we get the notion that the family is “scary.”
Folklore And Mental Health
While we can understand that the film tries to give specific folklore elements a mental health angle, it is not quite successful in the endeavor. Both these aspects are muted to stress the horror element. This, however, does make sense since a horror film does require horror elements firsthand. The way the film has made use of Angela’s mental health to showcase her possessed behavior, as well as Char’s clear indifference to her mother’s changed, terrifying self, is indeed strikingly noticeable. And the fact that both their behaviors take root in Irish folklore is a clever move.
‘You Are Not My Mother’ Ending Explained: Is Charlotte Safe?
At the end of the film, Charlotte manages to bring her mother (who has almost transformed into a fairy) to a fire in order to bring her human form back. This ritual does bring her real mom to her the following morning. However, the question remains whether Charlotte is safe. We see her give her mom the same ball of herb that her grandma used, probably to ward off supernatural spirits. While this will supposedly keep Angela safe, doesn’t it make Char vulnerable to another supernatural experience “by the river?”
“You Are Not My Mother” leaves things unattended in an unsettling and frustrating manner. Char’s last words to her mom are: “It will keep you safe.” This sounds like a clear warning, especially since the film ends abruptly right at the last word, “safe.” It does make us think about Charlotte and whether she was fully healed by the purge. Perhaps this is the film’s way of showing that even if the supernatural elements are no longer in play, horror still persists in the form of the workings of the mind.
“You Are Not My Mother” is a 2022 Irish Horror film directed by Kate Dolan.