Goran Stolevski’s dreamy debut You Won’t Be Alone is a poetic glimpse at generational trauma. Innocent and dazed, this delicate horror film follows a feral young witch, Nevena (Klimoska), who is cursed to live under the gaze of a bitter, older one, Maria (Marinca), as she tries on the skins of different of people in a small peasant village in 19th century Macedonia. Nevena’s purity gives way to a different kind of witch, one sweet and naive, with a yearning to understand life and humanity. There’s a beautiful, tranquil nature to Stolevski’s film, one that offers more empathy than most folk horror films of its ilk.
But patience is a virtue for You Won’t Be Alone. Inspired by Terrence Malick, Stolevski uses flickering sunlight and handheld close-ups to lure his audience into the mindset of the young witch, who learns over and over again how to be a human through the bodies of many people – female, male, and child. The significance of rebirth is apparent in Nevena’s journey, one her witch-mother doesn’t quite grasp, and instead a lingering jealousy gnaws at Maria, who only ever desired a daughter to share her life with, no matter the cost.
The imagery of the witches and how they morph from animal to human and back to their bodies from birth is the most grotesque and unique aspect of the film. By stuffing organs into a deep gash in the left shoulder, both Nevena and Maria can transform into their most recent kill – a curse as much as it is a gift. They litter intestines across the countryside when they wish to return to their original selves, the squishing sound of body parts plopping into the dirt. However, where Maria kills with intent and malice, Nevena never kills with purpose. With her wicked nails, she often stumbles into her kills, and in return takes the deceased’s body, with no malicious intent, and instead grows with her victim’s body.
You Won’t Be Alone is quite stunning, but Stolevski takes his time to get there, which creates a fragmented pace that is painfully slow at the front of the film. Nevena’s time before she reaches the peasant village delays the heart of the film for a hair too long, is a tad too internally poetic, and straddles the line of pretentiousness. When the film shifts, it’s for the better, and the latter half of the fairy tale flows gracefully along as summer eventually fades and winter’s biting depression sets in.
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