You Won’t Be Alone review – Familiar imagery in service of a witchy new tale

You Won’t Be Alone review – Familiar imagery in service of a witchy new tale

The immediate point of comparison for You Won’t Be Alone will be The Witch, and while it’s not an unfair adjacency to make, at least in terms of imagery and tone, there’s an entirely different type of story here. While the latter seems to be more about the rot that comes with the repression of one’s needs and desires, the former has a much more existential concern, and is distinctly less interested in being scary. If anything, it plays out as more of a fairy tale, albeit one filled with upsetting happenings.

In the middle of an isolated village, an ancient spirit seeks the blood of a newborn. The newborn’s mother knows that there is little she can do to assuage the spirit, so she strikes a deal: Wait sixteen years so that she can witness her child’s growth, and then the spirit will be permitted to do whatever she needs with the child. This buys the mother some time, but soon enough, her daughter is of age and under the tutelage of her new caretaker.

The spirit is not much of a parental figure (to be fair, neither was Mom), but she imparts one useful skill to her kidnapped progeny. Namely, the ability take on the form of pretty much anyone or anything that she kills. And herein lies the bulk of the film. Nevena (Sara Klimoska) spends her time jumping from skin to skin and tasting what life is like from a variety of perspectives. Despite the murkiness of the setting, and the generally oppressive nature of life at this it me, Nevena experiences a vast swath of what the world has to offer within these circumstances, while studying the restrictions/privileges afforded to each of her forms. This also allows for a group of very different actors to all take on the same role — certainly not an easy feat. This is why we see Noomi Rapace on the press material — she is one of the performers whose portrays Nevena under a different visage. She’s in the film for as long as any of the other iterations of this body-hopping possession, which includes Alice Englert and Carloto Cotta, who cool people will remember as Diamantino in Diamantino. These performances are subtlety incarnate, despite their collective task of maintaining a single character through each iteration. Remarkable stuff, and it speaks to the skills of the cast as well as the abilities of the director.

Writer/director Goran Stolevski has created a bleary, bleak world for our protagonist’s long-form experiment to occur, leaning heavily into the complete lack of comforts that existed in this time and place. It’s the type of movie you can smell. Everything is damp, exposed, and harsh. As the members of this society eke out whatever existence they can, it’s only natural the hierarchies will form. By hopping between genders and circumstances, Nevena gets a taste of it all. A fair amount of upsetting imagery is employed a regular rate, but this isn’t the horror movie it presents itself to be on the surface. It feels much more like a folk tale come to life, and it’s here that a comparison to The Witch makes the most sense. While this is an original story, had you told me it was based on a traditional text, I’d take your word for it.

Those seeking a shriek-a-moment shockfest will need to pump their expectational brakes before taking this one in, but those who seek a steady, thoughtful tale that will freak them out more after the movie than during, look no further.

Directed by Goran Stolevski

Written by Goran Stolevski

Starring Noomi Rapace, Alice Englert, Anamaria Marinca, Sara Klimoska

Rated R, 108 minutes

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