You Won’t be Alone is a fantasy horror film set in the 19th century and inspired by Macedonian folklore.
It tells the tale of mute 16-year-old Nevena (Sara Kilmoska) whose mother has hidden her away in a cave since birth, attempting to keep her safe from the evil shape shifting witch, Old-Maid Maria (Anamaria Marinca). Inevitably, the witch succeeds in capturing and transforming the girl into her protégée. Although Maria is frustrated by Nevena’s naivety and lack of malice and quickly abandons her to wander the world alone.
Completely isolated her entire life, Nevena understands nothing of society or nature and after accidentally killing a nearby villager (Noomi Rapace), Nevena begins her new life as a skin walker taking the form of different people, experiencing a range of lifestyles as she attempts to understand this world. Always in the shadows, the bitter and twisted Maria watches over Nevena, certain that she will live a life as painful as her own.
Very peculiar and at times hard to watch, I first became interested in You Won’t Be Alone due to the involvement of Noomi Rapace as executive producer as I’ve enjoyed many of the other weird and exciting films she has been involved with. You Won’t Be Alone is also somewhat of an Australian film. Although, it is shot entirely in Serbia in a Macedonian dialect, the postproduction has been provided by Film Victoria.
Macedonian Australian writer and director Goran Stolevski has traced myths and legends from his family’s homeland to create something familiar but with a fresh take not seen often on the big screen. European fairytales of evil witches and curses have been so watered down by Hollywood, I appreciate it when movies, books or even video games get them back to the nitty gritty and we’re reminded that these stories are actually supposed to terrify at times.
The decision to feature mostly in-camera and physical special effects was a wise one. With brutal gore, body horror and make-up effects throughout, the only times I feel the effects hold the film back are those few instances where CGI was used. The results appear out of place and incongruent with the natural flow the rest of the production has. The one time we see a transformation happening, it looks like something from a late ‘90s animation kids show. However, the film is visually beautiful with the Serbian landscape providing a picturesque yet haunting backdrop for this tale.
With multiple actors of varying ages and genders playing the same character, this is a tall order for the cast with Rapace playing a much smaller role than one might think but also the strongest. Rapace plays Nevena at her most curious with human interaction and social norms. Having never even had contact with another person, except for her deceitful mother and the evil witch Rapace as Nevena delivers a heartbreaking and at times surprisingly amusing performance.
Not to be outdone, the rest of the actors and actresses portraying Nevena also do an amazing job at playing the character at different points of her awakening and understanding of the world. Kilmoska plays her at the beginning again several times throughout, and has the most screen time, but everybody involved makes the role their own.
The overall standout of the film is Anamaria Marinca’s ‘Old Maid’ Maria. Between her performance and how Maria is written as a character, this makes for one of the most interesting depictions of a witch I’ve seen in a movie. Although much screen time passes without her, she is always in the back of your mind, and you know that she is watching.
You Won’t Be Alone is a twisted fairy tale showcasing the clash between two witches on opposite sides of the spectrum of morality. I honestly was not expecting to have moments of introspection while watching a supernatural fantasy film inspired by Macedonian folklore, but Goran Stolevski has crafted a fascinating movie that I highly recommend.