You Won’t Be Alone – movie review

Australian filmmaker Goran Stolevski’s You Won’t Be Alone opens in an isolated mountain village in 19th century Macedonia.

A disfigured witch, Maria (Anamaria Marinca), hovers over a crib. The baby’s mother pleads not to take her infant … at least until she turns 16. The God-fearing woman takes a blood oath to that effect. She then proceeds to lock the child in a large cave to try to protect her. In time though, the shape-shifting Maria does, indeed, “get” to the now-teenager Nevena (Sara Klimoska). Maria turns the youngster into a witch and treats her badly.

Time and again, Nevena tries desperately to escape her fate, but Maria is always close. Nevena is after only one thing – to experience the simple pleasures of being human. In time, we learn what barbarity turned Maria into the beast that she is.

You Won’t Be Alone is a highly creative work from Stolevski, who is making quite a mark for himself. His other feature, Of an Age, was the fine opening night feature at the 2022 Melbourne International Film Festival. Call this one a dark fairy tale. It’s dour and brutal. It speaks to the roles of men and women and the way each conduct themselves. Given its historic origins, what the males say goes. The women are simply expected to take the punishment dished out. That’s hard to watch.

You Won’t Be Alone takes time to establish itself. It’s a slow-burn art house film for selective tastes. With dialogue kept to a minimum, it is often facial expressions that speak volumes. The heavy lifting is shared between four women, the best known being Noomi Rapace, who plays a peasant woman. Production design is critical.

Be prepared to persist with it, for You Won’t Be Alone makes its mark.

Alex First

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