You Won’t Be Alone is a 2022 foreign horror film that originally premiered at Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition Section. In his directorial debut, Goran Stolevski crafts a horror film that is deserving of the recognition it has received thus far.
The film is set in 19th century Macedonia and follows a young witch, Nevena, who is left in isolation within the woods. In a sequence of different deaths, she explores life as a human by taking their form as a foreign host.
You Won’t Be Alone is a beautiful film to watch on the big screen. The shots are simple but beautifully framed to depict the effortless mundanity of human life. It is a horror film that is more beautiful than frightening and entices the senses to experience humanity’s most simple instincts and desires. It is intimate and evokes strong emotions through the use of close-up shots and handhelds. There is a certain peacefulness in the imagery of nature and its grandiose overarching presence. Through these intentional visual aspects of storytelling, an intimacy is created, which brings the viewers into the curious perspective of the protagonist. With respect to setting and the attention brought to nature itself as a character, the cinematography hauntingly frames our world as something that begs further attention than what naturally meets the eye.
The film begins a beautiful conversation about humankind and its most simple urges. It depicts the witch experiencing everything for the first time: love, gender roles, abuse, sexuality, childhood, etc. Through these different human experiences, the audience can simultaneously experience what makes someone human. There is something genuine and introspective about the film’s way of communicating how people behave. It forces people to reflect on themselves and the world around them, on the things that are disturbing and twisted and the things that are innocent and charming. For a horror film, some themes are pleasantly close to home despite some of its more occult elements.
The performances were seamlessly convincing in terms of acting and allowed for consistent engagement with the storyline, despite the various actors that portrayed the shapeshifting protagonist. The film is mostly quiet, lacking inconsistent dialogue. This exercised the actors’ ability to act through mostly body language and outward expressions, which is subtle yet incredibly communicative. Among the talent includes Noomi Rapace, Alice Englert, Sara Klimoska, Anamaria Marinca, Félix Maritaud, Carloto Cotta, and others. The opportunity for empathy and connection with the witch as she embodies different people is surprisingly effective and makes for a unique storytelling experience. One particular performance that stood out among the rest was from Noomi Rapace. Noomi Rapace gives a beautiful performance as the first embodiment of the witch through the body of a village woman named Bosilka. Her performance accurately displayed behavior of one that is truly foreign to society’s structure and expectations. Noomi Rapace’s expressions and movements were mesmerizing as she silently portrayed the experience of exploring the world for the first time. Thanks to her portrayal, Nevena was brought to life authentically and allowed the audience to see the world through a pair of fresh eyes.
An honorable mention goes to Anamaria Marinca as Maria, the eldest witch who is known as the “wolf-eateress.” Her character served as the film’s main antagonist and was effectively portrayed as a mysterious witch whose intentions remained blurry. Throughout the course of the film, she reveals more and more of herself and her motivations, which was oddly enticing and piqued curiosity. Marinca was able to portray Maria in such a way that allowed audiences to understand her and empathize with her, creating a truly dynamic character that had more dimension than being plainly evil. Overall, the actors involved in the film managed to ground the story well, no matter how long the screen time or number of lines.
You Won’t Be Alone is one of the many indie horror films that is redefining horror as a genre. It works to present a story that is rich with thematic elements rather than gratuitous gores and jump scares. This is a refreshing take on the genre and uses horror elements to its advantage in telling a story worth listening to. In this film, it is less about the kill count and more about the protagonist and her development.
Rating: 5/5 stars
You Won’t Be Alone is deserving of 5 stars for its strong storytelling elements, cinematography, acting, and ability to pose strong thematic questions to its audiences. It is a film made with intention and purposeful meaning but may not be appreciated by a wide audience. It is best suited for fans of independent films that primarily focus on aesthetic and symbolic content.
You Won’t Be Alone will hit theaters on April 1st. Check out the trailer below: