Nevena is still an infant and yet her mother, Yoana (Kamka Tocinovski) is already bargaining for her life. The creature on the other side of the bargain is Maria (Anamaria Marinca), a Wolf-Eateress who wants Nevena for herself. Yoana makes the bargain and tries to circumvent it by hiding Nevena in a cave. But Nevena eventually grows up (Sara Klimoska) only for Maria to take her and to become a Wolf-Eateress herself. Maria tries to teach Nevena the former’s ways.
But Nevena sees a woman, Bosilka (Noomi Rapace) give birth in the fields. She then wonders what it’s like to be human and takes over Bosilka’s body. This film, Goran Stolevski’s You Won’t Be Alone, eventually becomes about Nevena’s journey. In that journey, she inhabits one avatar after another in 19th century rural Macedonia. Meanwhile, Maria tries to convince her that the townsfolk will never see her as an equal. That’s regardless of who she pretends to be.
This film is tangentially about a Wolf-Eateress. And one of my draws in watching the film is the actress playing her. Pardon the quick aside, which begins now. Marinca should have won an Oscar for her work in 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days. I am still bitter about that snub and that I haven’t seen anything she’s been in since then. But I’m happy to see her in a film where she basically plays a troll. I have similarly positive things to say about the so-called victims of Maria’s trolling.
Two of the actresses playing that character do a good job in fulfilling the character’s challenges. Rapace faces a channelling while playing Nevena’s first avatar. How does someone play a feral and neuro atypical character of a different ethnicity? She pulls this off, and so does Alice Englert as the third avatar, Biliana. Biliana is a version of Nevena who can blend in with the townsfolk better than her previous selves. She’s successfull and happy despite of Maria being a hater.
Again, making a film about a Wolf-Eateress is difficult. You Won’t Be Alone shows off the hard work to pull off its horror elements through CGI and make-up. It would have been disappointing to have seen all that effort go to waste. The film almost slides into wasteful territory though. Its structure felt too loose at times – are we going to send 110 minutes in this cave? Nevena’s first attempt to become human also feels like we’re setting into a semblance of a structure. That’s until she jumps into another person in a way that feels too quick. The broken Romanian narration also felt too Malick-y. This would have been an interesting failure but thankfully it didn’t fail.
Nonetheless, this film about the witch bewitches. One of its assets is its eroticism, despite of how ridiculous that quality can seem at first. It seems ridiculous that all the male characters look like they go to the gym instead of working the fields. The first sight of a barrel chested Macedonian is also disappointing because of how quickly that character comes and goes. But thankfully the other male characters who come after him stay longer. The eroticism also adds a modernity to Won’t Be Alone. I didn’t even clue into the film being a period piece until the fourth act. The giveaway was a reference to the Turks, which had a presence in the Balkans until World War I. Anyway, it seems likely that this society with patriarchal, traditional values and female rebels can exist in 2022.
Speaking of tradition, this film is a competent and alternative look at rural mindsets. The townsfolk are more tolerant of Nevena’s avatars because there’s too much work to do to lynch someone. And they need another hand to till the fields, regardless of how catatonic that person is. They also talk about Maria in more tolerant ways, as if apologetic about how their ancestors treat her. It’s also funny in a good way when the townsfolk start to clue in on what’s happening. It’s a film coming out at the right time. And it’s nice to see a horror film with characters as smart as its viewers.