“Different, haunting, and unexpected, Goran Stolevski’s directorial debut will go down as a new-age classic.” We review You Won’t Be Alone.
Sometimes, a film you’d never expect will surprise you with its quality. And such is the case for the horror film ‘You Won’t Be Alone.’ Written and directed by Goran Stolevski in his directorial debut, the film isn’t what you expect it to be. Although it is described as a horror movie, it is far more than that. While there are some grisly scenes to be had, the film actually focuses more on human development. About what it’s like to be human. And by the end credits, you walk away with a sense of having watched something incredible.
Maria (Anamaria Marinca), a 200-year-old witch, abducts a young girl to raise as her own. But after transforming 16-year-old Nevena (Sara Klimoska) into one of her own kind, Maria quickly loses interest in her protégée. Abandoned in the woods, Nevena accidentally kills a peasant woman (Noomi Rapace) and assumes her shape. Enraptured by the wonders and hardships of life, Nevena continues to kill and inhabit both female and male villagers as she learns to treasure the range of human experience. But when Maria suddenly reappears, Nevena is forced to make a heartbreaking decision.
The film is in the Macedonian language with English subtitles. But don’t let that put you off or you’ll be missing out on a treat. The film follows Nevena through four stages of her life as a shape-shifting witch. And although she is mute throughout the film, her inner thoughts can be heard during the film. Some viewers may be confused by the way her dialogue is seen in the subtitles. But that is the whole point. Nevena has been shut away for sixteen years and has no way of knowing what she is thinking is coming out completely wrong. But it adds a remarkable trait to her character.
We view Nevena as a child trapped in an adult’s body until we come to the fourth and final body she inhabits. It is here that she decides to stay, to grow as a normal adult would, and to view the world as it should be seen. To experience what most people experience. Youth, maturity, love, and affection. And a sense of belonging. It is what we all experience during our lifetimes, and some things we all crave for.
The entire cast plays their parts to perfection. None more so than Sara Klimoska as Nevena. Hers is the body we see most of all, the form she reverts to when the body she is in is no longer viable or safe. And from the moment we see her as a sheltered sixteen-year-old, we want to follow her journey and see her safe. It is a performance of such childlike innocence that the audience immediately bonds with her. It is an amazing performance from the Macedonian actress, one that gives the Hollywood A’Listers a serious run for their money.
The same can be said for Anamaria Marinca as Old Witch Maria, the villain of the film if you will. The actress is for almost all of her screen time encased in burn makeup apart from a flashback sequence. But while we think she is the villainess, we come to see that she isn’t. The flashback sequence explains more than we think we know about the character. And her previous fate was tragic, forcing her against her will to be who she is. The actress isn’t the main focus here and does disappear for lengths of time during proceedings. But she is the perfect foil to Sara Klimoska.
NOOMI RAPACE AND CARLOTO COTTA
Noomi Rapace has an extended cameo in the film. She plays a young mother who Nevena accidentally kills, forcing her into her first transformation as Bosilka. Her time on the screen shows what a versatile and superb actress she is. Apart from speaking as the real Bosilka, her performance is a completely silent one. But she plays her role incredibly well. No one but the audience knows that she is Nevena, and Noomi Rapace gives the character the same wide-eyed innocence as Sara Klimoska, much to the film’s advantage.
Carlotto Cotta plays Nevena’s second transformation as Boris. The real Boris dies after he attempts to have sex with Nevena in her true form, something that frightens the girl into killing him. Once Nevena as Boris returns to the village, he is seen as stupid, a moron in a man’s body. But he is also seen as being cursed by Maria, something that isn’t entirely untrue. Cotta plays the part of Boris well. Although his appearance is limited, he makes the most of his time on screen and comes across as a terrific actor.
But it is Australian actress Alice Englert who gets almost the most screen time as Nevena’s third and final transformation as Biliana. It is here that Nevana discovers that she doesn’t want to change anymore. After the real Biliana, played by child actress Anastasija Karanovich dies in an accident, Nevana decides to take her form and return to the village as a child. And from this point on, we follow as she stays inside Biliana’s body, growing up as a normal person would. It is where we finally see that this is what Nevana has been craving. The chance to be human again. We are hooked as we see Nevana learn about life, love, devotion, loss, and what makes us all who we are. Alice Englert gives a wonderful performance, one that sticks with us after the film ends.
For a debut feature, Goran Stolevski has achieved something wonderful. He has taken a folk story, one that we have heard before, and turned it into something we would never expect. A tale with supernatural and horrific overtones about the human spirit, the human heart, and what it is to be human. And presents us with something that will amaze the viewer. It isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, that much is certain. But those who dare to see the film, they too will be amazed by what has been created.
Gore hounds are in for a disappointment. While the film is described as a horror movie, there isn’t that much horror involved. While there are a few scenes that will give them their gore fix, this film isn’t for them. This is for those who want to see a scary folk tale turned on its head and presented back to us as a drama with horrific overtones instead of blood and guts galore. Different, haunting, and unexpected, Goran Stolevski’s directorial debut will go down as a new-age classic. And one that I’ll be happy to check out again.
‘You Won’t Be Alone’ will be released on digital platforms to rent or buy on October 20th.
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Carl Roberts is the News Editor of The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force frequently!