You Won’t Be Alone
Billing Goran Stolevski’s debut feature, You Won’t Be Alone, as a horror may seem like a logical categorisation, given the horrifyingly bewitching presence of Anamaria Marinca’s Maria, whose sinister desperation for a child of her own drives the film’s wispy plot forward. But it is, in many ways, a film that defies categorisation, more fairly thought of as an ethereal coming-of-age tale bolstered by folk-horror tropes.
The burnt, wild-eyed figure of Maria is introduced within the first minutes, a startling yet understated reveal – two adjectives that encapsulate the general texture of the film. She has come to claim Nevena, a newborn baby whose mother begs Maria (or the Wolf-Eateress, as she is folklorically referred to) to spare her until her 16th birthday. Maria agrees, with the rather severe caveat of ripping out the child’s tongue, depriving her of speech. Her mother, petrified to the verge of possessive madness by the possibility of the witch’s return, encloses Nevena in a cave for the first 16 years of her life. When Maria finally claims Nevena, she baptises her as a shape-shifting witch.
Most of us have been curious as to the effect another biological form would have on our directions and perceptions. Nevena, being exposed to the world beyond the walls of her prison for the first time, has the opportunity to literally navigate this fascination as her embryonic relationship to the world burgeons. Without the aid of speech to build the young woman’s conflicted inner world, the film relies on an evocative mystique conjured by Mark Bradshaw’s hypnotic score and Matthew Chuang’s thick cinematography that allows viewers to almost smell the chilly, leafy North Macedonian air, and feel the frosty dew beneath their feet. It is a highly authentic melding of folk-horror aesthetic and coming-of-age thematic considerations, and, much like Del Kathryn Barton’s Blaze, identifies the brutality and hardship of self-discovery.
You Wont Be Alone has been compared fairly to the work of Terence Malick, with Nevena’s moody, poetic voiceover gliding above visions of pastoral nature. At times, however, it can feel like Malick at his most impenetrable and aloof, although Stolevski is undeniably a filmmaker with his own distinct cinematic vocabulary.
It is certainly a film critics will stroke their beards at and analyse to the death, while audiences are more likely to turn away after 20 minutes. But, with some persistence, there are poignantly realised ideas here that will resonate with those who are willing to let it wash over them.
You Won’t Be Alone is released on VOD on 20th October 2022.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2022 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for You Won’t Be Alone here: