You Won’t Be Alone (2022) Remembering This European Folk Horror Film
Title: You Won’t Be Alone
First Non-Festival Release: April 1, 2022 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Goran Stolveski
Writer: Goran Stolveski
Runtime: 108 Minutes
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Alice Englert, Anamaria Marinca, Sara Klimoska
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
One day in the early 1800s, a woman is forced to make a deal with a witch (Anamaria Marinca). In exchange for not killing her newborn daughter, she must give her up when she turns sixteen so the witch can have a companion. Her mother shields her away from the world by placing her in a cave in hopes that the witch cannot find her. The time comes and goes, and the witch makes good on her word to collect Nevena (Sara Klimoska). After years of under stimulation, Nevena learns how to interact with the world and gives in to her curiosity. She utilizes the power of shapeshifting to infiltrate a small village, leaving a trail of bodies in her wake.
Contemplative and metaphorical, You Won’t Be Alone ponders the horrors of finding yourself and others.
You Won’t Be Alone continually makes interesting choices on how to move the action along. Showing more than it tells, the filmmakers clearly trust the audience to draw conclusions and make parallels from imagery and symbolism without having Nevena spell out the entirety of the story. Much of this has to do with the choice to keep Nevena from speaking, even when she takes over the bodies of those she has slain. The rough translations from Nevena’s purposefully repetitive inner monologues could be a testament to her life as a near feral child, or the result of a lacking English subtitle translation. Either way it works.
Much of what makes You Won’t Be Alone intriguing and powerful is the ability for Nevena to inhabit other’s lives and articulate her observations. There are different ways that men inhabit the world than women, old versus young, and so on. Nevena interacts in an almost alien like manner until she assimilates as if she was one of their own. It’s beautiful to watch Nevena remark about life, both the good and the bad. You Won’t Be Alone allows for enough breathing room to contemplate the complexities in even the most simple of lives back in the 1800s.
Maria is the primary antagonist against Nevena’s self-actualization. Her backstory makes her choices cut deeper and provides more substance behind her desire for companionship, most notably why she chooses to watch from afar. She is almost certain that Nevena is going to break on her own and it frustrates her immensely to see that is not the case. The maternal power struggle between the two serves as a metaphor for women caught between generations. Every struggle that Maria faced: never finding the love in a man she sought desperately, never birthing a child of her own, never finding community in the town that tossed her away, is mirrored by Nevena’s successes in her own life.
Mountain life looks poetically beautiful in You Won’t Be Alone. The quaint village and its people are framed with captivating shots that express the power in simplicity. Hauling hay down a mountain, trapping a pig, and telling stories by the fire are given life and love in a way that makes them seem more grandiose than what might be given otherwise. The sounds, lights, and colors are overpowering at times, even when Nevena adjusts to her new lives and gains experience. There’s an energy where she never quite understands how everything ties together and the sensory overload deepens that. Everything looks and feels natural in terms of the usage of effects work. The transformation elements are quite muted yet still allows for some gnarly gore effects here and there.
Nevena’s character is explored through her inner thoughts and facial expressions as she maneuvers through life one body at a time. While her actions may not always make sense, her curiosity drives the story in unexpected directions. It’s because of this experiential learning that the audience can explore her environment as much as she does. We examine trees with zeal and pet rabbits as if they are some alien creature. The actors playing various forms of Nevena give incredible dual performances, capturing the before and after of her take over while still giving her humanity. Highlights include Carloto Cotta’s take on Nevena experiencing penetration as the penetrator and Noomi Rapace’s portrayal of Nevena learning how to do various household chores for the first time.
You Won’t Be Alone asks what it means to be human and offers a compelling answer. Nevena’s journey in discovering herself, despite the barriers she faces, is more human than the character development most films. Even though she is a witch, with essentially superpowers, Nevena yearns for the connections she has been deprived of for so long. Most of us can relate to this in some capacity. More haunting and thoughtful than outright scary, You Won’t Be Alone is a strong period film that uses horror as the vehicle for its timeless themes of self-discovery and generational trauma. Its sedate pacing works in its favor, offering an oddly hopeful horror experience that rejoices in the beauty and pain that comes with humanity. Those looking for a more traditional horror experience may find themselves disappointed, but those who are willing to sojourn alongside Nevena will find that there is much to appreciate in life and this film.
Overall Score? 6/10