You Won’t Be Alone is a fascinating horror film that details the human experience in a truly creative way. Set near a rural village in 19th century Macedonia, a desperate mother promises a bloodsucking, hideously burnt witch her daughter. The angry witch can take any biological form and pass on her cursed gift. The entire film is told in mostly voice-over narration from the protagonist. We hear her thoughts as she lives multiple lives and tries to avoid a cruel debt. You Won’t Be Alone is brutal and terrifying; but also deep and thoughtful with profound performances from several actresses.
Elica (Irena Ristić) returns to her shack to care for her infant daughter. She’s horrified to find a “wolf-eateress”, the burnt witch Old Maid Maria (Anamaria Marinca), hovering over her beloved child. Maria is hungry for blood. Maria’s story has been a legend for centuries. She knows the witch is lonely. Elica gives Maria her daughter as a companion, if she lets her live to puberty. Elica hides Nevena in a cave. The child grows up alone with only her mother’s daily visits with food and clothing.
We see a dirty and feral Nevena (Sara Klimoska) as a teenager in the cave. Maria comes to collect her prize. She callously mistreats the girl. But gives her the power of the curse. Nevena can now take anyone’s form. She just has to ingest their organic material. Nevena is overcome by the beauty of the outside world. She watches from afar the lives of the village women. Nevena breaks free from Maria. Then savagely takes the form of a young mother, Bosilka (Noomi Rapace). This begins an odyssey that transforms Nevena’s soul. But she can never find happiness with the bitter and deadly Maria lurking in the shadows.
Australian director/writer Goran Stolevski (You Deserve Everything) crafts an extraordinary film. Nevena doesn’t know love or kindness. Her life, up to becoming a witch, has been suffering for survival. Her initial wonderment at the sun, sky, and forest creatures is tainted by Maria’s cruelty. She’s horrified by the blood-drinking. Her change to Bosilka gives the first inkling of humanity’s contrasting nature. The village men see women as slaves. They must feed the men first, care for the household, work like cattle, and are then assaulted at whim. Noomi Rapace’s turn as Nevena is spellbinding. She must learn to laugh, share, and develop bonds with others. These scenes are disturbing at first. Then become meaningful as Nevena acclimates to social contact.
Goran Stolevski candidly depicts Macedonian daily life and the complete subservience of women. Nevena’s time as a man teaches her patriarchal gender dynamics. She revels in a man’s strength and easier intimate satisfaction. But isn’t intrigued by lust, power, or dominance. Her chance for another childhood is the most affecting. The joys of being playful, idle, and simple discovery are completely foreign to her. I was transfixed by the film’s second act.
Not Succumbing to Trite Genre Tropes
You Won’t Be Alone is a graphic horror film with realistic violence, gore, and nudity. I applaud Goran Stolevski for not succumbing to trite genre tropes. Old Maid Maria is a wicked and cunning antagonist. We see her awful backstory. She and Nevena kill at will. They are formidable adversaries. The film doesn’t have calculated jump scares. You never know where the narrative is going. Tension and terror are carefully stoked like a fire.
You Won’t Be Alone requires a degree of sophistication from the audience. The dialogue is Macedonian. There are a lot of subtitles. Nevena is constantly thinking and dictating her realizations. This level of voice-over narration is usually a sign of a weak script. That is not the case here. We view the breadth of life from someone with no foundation to draw from. You Won’t Be Alone is a visionary film.
You Won’t Be Alone has adult themes and is solely meant for mature audiences. There are scenes of sexual assault. You Won’t Be Alone is a production of Causeway Films, Head Gear Films, and Metrol Technology. It will have an April 1st theatrical release in the US from Focus Features.
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