Directed by: Goran Stolevski
Distributed by: Focus Features
Written by Jeff Sparks
With his feature film debut titled “You Won’t Be Alone”, writer and director Goran Stolevski tells the story of a young witch in the 19th century in an isolated mountain village in Macedonia who takes the shape of several villagers that she encounters to experience human interaction in their form. The shapeshifting witch is played by several different actors including Sara Klimoska, Noomi Rapace, Carlotta Cotta, Alice Englert, and even a four-legged animal in the form of a black dog that she uses in an attempt to interact with the world from all angles. The story begins with a witch attempting to steal a woman’s newborn baby from her but relents when the woman makes her a deal to allow her to keep her child until she’s sixteen years old. “You won’t be alone in your old age”, she tells the old witch. The mother locks the girl in a cave to hide her from the witch for sixteen years but at last, the old witch comes and retrieves the teenage girl, turning her into a witch, and begins her training. Uninterested in her new “mother’s” evil ways the girl acts up, disobeying. The old witch isn’t interested in having a daughter to take care of, but rather a sidekick. Giving up on her, the old witch leaves the sheltered young girl to discover the world out on her own.
The film begins to shine with the old witch gone, whose distracting makeup looks like a bad Freddy Kreuger costume. Locked in a cave her whole life the young witch is now eager to learn about the world and the people it inhabits. Accidentally killing a villager she takes her shape and blends in with her family. She begins to learn and enjoy the joys of human interaction although this doesn’t last long as she is forced to move from one body to the next. A Frankenstein-like figure, the witch is only interested in enjoying the life of a human as one of them, but they continue to fear her. At first, she continues to kill for the ability to continue living amongst the humans, but eventually, she builds up enough understanding of them that she feels genuine emotion when a little girl is accidentally killed. The witch takes her shape for a long time so her parents don’t have to suffer the grief of her loss.
The only major negative other than the old witch’s makeup in the film that bothered me is that actress Noomi Rapace is severely underutilized. Being the most popular and the most talented actor in the film many viewers will expect and desire to see more of her although her minimal screen time isn’t a huge blow to the film as many of the other actors impress as well, especially Sara Klimoska. On the contrary, the positives of the film heavily outweigh the negatives. The stunning camera work in the film acts as a character of its own, giving the film a unique feel. The visuals by Matthew Chuang are very naturalistic, capturing lots of close-ups of hair blowing in the wind, leaves rumbling on the ground, water trickling through cracks, and habitant animals roaming about. Chuang’s work is aided by the set design done by Mina Buric that immerses you into this 19th-century rural landscape. The music by Mark Bradshaw also works as a key component to the film. Starting off somber and melancholic the score becomes often beautiful over time as we see the witch appreciate the beauty of human life in her conflicted narrative.
You Won’t Be Alone Trailer