Maria wants the baby. A tearful negotiation ensues, in which Maria bites off the child’s tongue as a down payment, so to speak, on the understanding that she will return for the girl when she turns 16.
It’s quite the opening. But you haven’t seen anything yet.
Maria returns for her Nevena, long after her mother hid her in a cave, where the girl grows into adolescence, deprived of a normal childhood. Played by Sara Klimoska, a 27-year-old Macedonian actress with striking green-blue eyes, mute teenager Nevena is turned into a witch by Maria, who puts her young career aside after the young girl proves herself inept at witchcraft. Nevena narrates the film with an interior monologue: a kind of broken Macedonian poetry in which she refers to herself as “me-the-witch” to distinguish who she has become from her former cloistered self – a wild child, but not another necromancer.
“You Won’t Be Alone” can be macabre at times, but also beautiful, in a faded fashion from a Terrence Malick film: all the grass, leaves, sky and water, captured by camera work that evokes someone’s wide-eyed wonder. discover the world for the first time. But Nevena, whose fingers end in black claw-like fingernails, will never again be accepted as fully human. As it becomes clear throughout this slowly unfolding story, witches are shape-shifters and can take the form of people or animals that have died – or been killed by them. It gives her a vicarious way to find out what she couldn’t otherwise access.
Although this is Nevena’s journey, Maria continues to observe her, and Maria’s tragic backstory – as well as the origin of her Old Maid nickname – will eventually come out, via flashback, as and as Nevena’s own research unfolds. Stolevski is in no rush to lay down all his cards at once, and the film is not for the impatient. Stick with “Alone,” however, and you’ll be rewarded with a boogeyman’s campfire story that also offers adult pleasures.
Throughout the film, Nevena takes the form of two women and a man, interpreted by an international trio of interpreters: the Swedish Noomi Rapace, the French Carloto Cotta and the Australian Alice Englert. In doing so, she learns not what she lost, but something she never knew: love.
The horror in this film – and it’s considerable, with a villain who looks like Freddy Krueger and several instances of gory violence – nevertheless takes precedence over a larger and ultimately satisfying agenda. More than anything, “You Won’t Be Alone” tells the story of a young woman who discovers – in this case, by supernatural means – not only what it costs to kiss her “witch-me ” interior but, as she puts it in her poetic voiceover, “Every last me”.
R In neighborhood theatres. Contains violence and gore, sexual material, graphic nudity and sexual assault. In Macedonian with subtitles. 109 minutes.