You’re Not Me successfully spins a well-worn horror/thriller formula by blurring the line between genuine family drama and its more heightened undertones.
Among all the other classic horror/thriller movie “rules” – don’t split up, don’t be a horny teenager, etc. – can we now officially add the rule that if a romantic couple goes to the home of one of their parents, they’re pretty much screwed? You’re Not Me (Tú no Eres Yo) is but the latest of such films to support that rule, as it stars Roser Tapias and Yapoena Silva as Aitana and Gabi, a couple who plan on spending their Christmas at Aitana’s home with her family. But Aitana finds that new assistant Nadia (Anna Kurika) has all but replaced Aitana as the daughter of the family, to an increasingly alarming degree. This turns the visit uglier and uglier until, of course, big secrets are revealed that cast everything in a much more ominous light.
I’ve sort of reached a point where I’m a bit too used to the rhythm that most thrillers and horror movies with this type of setup have. Characters go into a seemingly normal situation where there’s initially a bit of tension but everything seems fine, the first few signs of strangeness show up but are dismissible, the main character starts noticing them, it all ramps up, and there’s usually some big set of reveals in the third act when all hell breaks loose. Even if it’s done well, it’s easy for me to be less and less affected by whatever creepy sequences come from these movies the more of them I watch.
Thankfully, You’re Not Me doesn’t focus so much on any form of overt horror until the climax, instead leaning into its strengths surrounding the family drama and a far more relatable level of strangeness. If you walked into your parents’ house one day and saw some stranger wearing your clothes, hoarding your treasured mementos, and even being referred to as their child, you’d get very riled up very quickly, which is exactly what happens here. Aitana is a very blunt, grounded character who doesn’t take long to directly point out the glaring problems around her, and the performance from Tapias works really well off of Pilar Almería’s equally blunt, bitter portrayal of her mother.
I also like how, for the most part, it’s really unclear just how much of this ugliness is coming from something far darker and how much is purely driven by the past choices we learn Aitana made. Though the situation itself isn’t quite typical – unless you’ve got some major family issues to work out – the motivations behind them are. This is especially clever because it holds up even when you know what’s really going on by the end. You can still read into how much resentment comes from that natural place, and I love when a film like this can have its cake and eat it too in that regard.
The film only starts to feel generic when it does lean into its more blatant horror angles. The tropes you’ve probably seen more often show up in the final twenty or so minutes, and while they’re executed fine and even make great use of dark backdrops, the actual material is still standard. What few “jump-scares” are in You’re Not Me are edited and framed so incomprehensibly that I couldn’t make out what was happening even when I rewound them. Luckily that’s a small portion of the film, whereas the rest of it is shot in an only somewhat shaky way that enhances the discomfort of being in the miserable house. There’s also almost no score in You’re Not Me, letting the eeriness speak for itself without sucking out the film’s life.
What the ending lacks in standout aesthetics on its own, it makes up for in the implications it has on the rest of You’re Not Me. As the film was progressing earlier on, I had it locked in my head that certain characters had certain types of motivations, but then those characters ended up going down different paths that I didn’t see coming while still filling in the gaps that had me scratching my head earlier … but again, not to the point where every moment could only be interpreted in one way. At any point, someone’s actions or words can potentially be seen as genuine, manipulative, or a mix of both.
Am I saying these are some of the richest characters out there that you could analyze forever? Not really, but it’s still interesting to think back on what’s driving them after already being invested in their irrational, seemingly spiteful words and actions. The only character that I think got the short straw is Aitana’s disabled brother, played by Jorge Motos. Not only does Motos not have that same disability from what I could find, which shows a bit in the performance, but the character doesn’t have many scenes despite the heart and soul he should bring and especially the importance he has in the story’s endgame. I often forgot he was even there, which is a shame because his scenes with Aitana are definitely moving.
I can’t go as far as to call You’re Not Me one of the top contenders for best horror film of the year, but it’s got plenty of emotional merits and smart touches that give it a leg up on a lot of similar indie films you may come across. Roser Tapias and Pilar Almería shine in an effectively unsavory story that slickly combines its familial conflicts with the more heightened context that’s revealed towards the end. Not a standout of the year or even just within the festival circuits I’ve gone through, but a well-executed bit of uneasiness that definitely leaves some interesting character-based food for thought.
You’re Not Me premiered at Fantastic Fest 2023 in September. The film has been acquired for distribution by Global Screen.