THE STORY – In an isolated mountain village in 19th-century Macedonia, a young girl is taken from her mother and transformed into a witch by an ancient, shape-shifting spirit. Left to wander feral, the young witch beholds the natural world with curiosity and wonder. After inadvertently killing a villager and assuming her body, she continues to inhabit different people, living among the villagers for years, observing and mimicking their behavior until the ancient spirit returns, bringing them full circle.
THE CAST – Noomi Rapace, Anamaria Marinca, Alice Englert, Carloto Cotta, Félix Maritaud & Sara Klimoska
THE TEAM – Goran Stolevski (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 108 Minutes
By Ema Sasic
We don’t realize it, but the everyday things we do, even the most mundane tasks, are beautiful. The rituals that we have – watching the sunrise or sunset, making food, creating art – are what make us human, and most of the time, we don’t even realize how precious those moments are. We’ve become so immune to these “chores” and their wonders that we don’t pay attention to the intricate details behind them. Sometimes, we’re reminded of these little acts of beauty when we introduce them to wide-eyed children who have never experienced them before. In these moments, we realize how lucky we are to be alive and do the things that we do – even if washing the dishes or doing the laundry aren’t the most glamorous of tasks.
In Goran Stolevski’s “You Won’t Be Alone,” we discover the things that make us human and just how crucial love is in our lives. Instead of a little child, we see life through a curious shape-shifting witch’s point of view. Though it sounds like an innocent and sweet tale, don’t be fooled; this is a horror movie. There are no jump scares, but there’s plenty of gore and violence to make you squirm and cover your eyes.
This folklore tale begins with a young woman named Nevena (Sara Klimoska), who has been living in a cave in 19th century Macedonia for almost her entire life. Old Maid Maria, a witch, visited her mother when she was just an infant, and Nevena’s mother promised her to Maria when she was older. The cave, her mother thought, would keep Maria out, until one day it didn’t. The Wolf-Eateress, with her sharp black claws and burnt face and body, takes Nevena in and shows her the ways of being a shape-shifting witch, who changes form by stuffing her body with the guts of another. But Nevena, who has spent her entire life cooped up inside, is overwhelmed and distracted by everything around her, which irritates Maria. She then leaves Nevena to fend for herself in the forests and nearby villages.
It is here where Stolevski begins to explore just what makes us human. Through Nevena’s narration, she takes on the form of a mother (Noomi Rapace), a young man (Carloto Cotta), and a young woman (Alice Englert). With each new body, she learns something new about life and her place in the world – though she does this without language or behavior skills. As the mother, she learns to laugh and smile with other women and sees that men have all the power. When she lives life as a man, she sees the pressures put on them and discovers her sexual awakening.
The most touching moments are found in Nevena’s final form. When she becomes a young girl, she finally has a chance to receive love and spend time with other young children, all the experiences that she missed out on in her own childhood. She also feels what it means to fall in love for the first time and how beautiful that experience can be. In this chapter, Stolevski really tugs at the heartstrings, even in the simplest of moments. Time spent with loved ones, learning how things work, and helping others are the joys of life at the end of the day, and we don’t reflect on them too often enough. But Nevena doesn’t take those days lightly, especially since the cruel reality is that Old Maid Maria is never too far away, ready to take away happiness with one swift swipe. Even though she’s the last person you’d ever want to meet, the film still makes us feel sympathy for Maria. As we learn her backstory, we better understand her trauma and why she’s chosen to live life independently and away from humans.
Stolevski’s “You Won’t Be Alone” comes alive in the third act, but it takes quite a while to get there, and it becomes a bit repetitive as Nevena goes on her journey. But through each of the new lives Nevena takes on, it encourages viewers to open their eyes and discover the beauty in their own surroundings. Life isn’t always sweet, but this shape-shifting witch reminds us that there are plenty of simple pleasures and beautiful moments out there.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – The film beautifully explores what it means to be human and reminds us to be grateful for the experiences we have. Stunning visuals and music.
THE BAD – It takes a while for the film to get going, and there are times when it feels repetitive.