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You Won’t Be Alone Review | Sundance Film Festival 2022

An interesting look at humanity, it is a slow burn that will not be for everyone, but the way it explores its concept while also sticking to the lore and folklore established is fascinating.

YOU WON'T BE ALONE

Noomi Rapace stars as “Bosilka” in director Goran Stolevski’s YOU WON’T BE ALONE, a Focus Features release. Credit: Branko Starcevic / Focus Features

When Goran Stolevski’s directorial debut opens, the lore is established, and we get an idea of what we might be seeing. The haunting imagery of the witch with children introduces us to a film that might be focused on horror, a creature film that will showcase the disconnect between both worlds as the witches will undoubtedly hurt the humans.

However, this is where You Won’t Be Alone is different. The story follows a young witch known as Nevena, as she learns from the matron, known as Old Maid Maria, how to be a witch. At first, the story is a mother-daughter story, with Maria teaching Nevena, and the latter seeing the world for the first time. Things take a turn when Nevena develops a curiosity for the human world, and accidentally kills a human.

Rather than run away or keep the killing spree to protect her identity, Nevena takes over the human body, and decides to live a human life. This is where the shift in the film occurs and it becomes something unique, Nevena tries to ignore her nature and comes to love being a human and exploring her new human body, but she can never fully escape from her true nature. Old Maid Maria remains in the background, watching as she waits for Nevena to keep making mistakes due to her nature. It makes you wonder if Nevena is actually gentle and caring or if she is truly a monster as the folklore paints her to be.

Nevena does not remain in the same body throughout the film, she keeps changing and experiencing life through different people, and it’s when she changes to a man’s body that the story also takes a turn. Reminiscent of Orlando, she is still Nevena, but in a body that is unfamiliar to her and does not fully realize how different it is until an encounter much later. This is where the film comments on the hardships of being a woman.

This was interesting because despite the film being directed by a man, the aspects of the female gaze were present, there was no exploitation of the female body as there sometimes is when sexuality is brought up in films. Her experience as a man makes the audience question where Nevena enjoyed herself the most, as she comments on the newfound strength and liberty she felt, versus the pain that she had to deal with in a woman’s body.

An interesting look at humanity, it is a slow burn that will not be for everyone, but the way it explores its concept while also sticking to the lore and folklore established is fascinating, and the craft has to be admired.

The unsettling directing once Nevena is deep into the human world, the focus on nature as she learns about her surroundings, there is a balance that makes it clear to the audience that Nevena is stuck between two worlds, and by the end it makes you wonder which one she preferred the most.

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Rating: 4 out of 5

About You Won’t Be Alone

In an isolated mountain village in 19th-century Macedonia, a young girl is taken from her mother and transformed into a witch by an ancient, shape-shifting spirit. Left to wander feral, the young witch beholds the natural world with curiosity and wonder. After inadvertently killing a villager and assuming her body, she continues to inhabit different people, living among the villagers for years, observing and mimicking their behavior until the ancient spirit returns, bringing them full circle.

You Won’t Be Alone Played at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.