You Won’t Be Alone (2022) – Movie Review

Posted by Eddie Pasa on April 1, 2022 in / No Comments

 

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, You Won't Be Alone, Focus FeaturesThe horrid and tender beauty of You Won’t Be Alone stays with you, its implications and repercussions floating through your mind as you consider the film and the discovery of humanity it shows you. We are made through the lessons we learn and our memories of them, as I said in my review of Mothering Sunday. But what if we had no lessons, just a rudimentary sense of self? Even worse, what if our ability to speak was taken away from us?

This is where we find young Nevena (Sara Klimoska), kept away from the world in a cave because of her mother Elica’s (Irena Ristić) deal with Old Maid Maria (Anamaria Marinca), a witch called a “Wolf-Eateress.” Nevena is an empty shell, given only the most minimal of contact with her mother when she decides to visit, having faked Nevena’s death as an infant to get away from Maria. She knows nothing of the outside world or how to be around people, nor can she talk due to Maria taking her tongue out of wretched spite.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, You Won't Be Alone, Focus FeaturesThe trouble starts before that, seen through Elica’s complaints about her life, all the work she has to do, and how baby Nevena is like a millstone around her neck. Only then does Maria appear, as if to take something Elica doesn’t want or need anyway. The way Elica turns completely around to having the child spared only speaks of her selfishness, with her further actions – asking Maria to leave Nevena alone until she’s 16, whisking her away to a cave and then screaming to anyone who’ll hear that something took her baby, and not even teaching Nevena how to communicate, walk, or take care of herself, leaving Nevena totally dependent on her – only cementing the kind of person Elica is.

For all of that, Nevena – more animal-like than human by this point – shows she’s a different person from Elica when Maria releases her from captivity. Maria is every bit the witch of lore, with burned skin and a cruel soul. She allows Nevena moments of happiness, only to bitterly take them away for her own pleasure. But at least she teaches Nevena how to shapeshift, a gory bit of business involving ripping her own skin open and taking the heart and other pieces of the body she wishes to become.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, You Won't Be Alone, Focus FeaturesNevena uses this to become people she never dreamed of being – a peasant girl (Noomi Rapace), a strapping young man (Carloto Cotta), and an adolescent girl (Anastasija Karanovich, later Alice Englert). With each shapeshift, she learns about the world and the horrors and delights of it all. This is where the fragile beauty of You Won’t Be Alone is most evident, where humanity is expressed through happiness, pain, joy, and anger, all while Maria watches from a distance, taunting Nevena when and where she can, just because she can.

As her muteness transfers to each body, we see her treated with skepticism and dismissal. She does not learn to love until much later; her first iterations are more concerned with fitting in, learning by looking at those around her. There’s laughter to be had in her attempts, watching each body she inhabits go through the motions and failing at first; however, she becomes part of each community, endearing herself in each form through her simplicity and unknowing manner.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, You Won't Be Alone, Focus FeaturesIt doesn’t come with all smiles and roses; she also gets to witness the more abusive and horrible side of humans. As a woman, she is beaten and raped by her husband, but she knows no better; she thinks this is the way people behave, so she takes it without crying. “They want the eye-water,” Nevena intones in her whisper-quiet voiceover after seeing how others react, but she refuses to give it to them. The words which Nevena uses in her narration are not the words of the learned, but of those trying to make sense of their world, and it’s such a wonderful element that brings our high-mindedness back to square one, learning about life along with her and hanging on her touching observations.

Through it all, there’s still the ongoing battle for Nevena’s soul as Maria tries to corrupt it and turn it toward the darkness. Yet Nevena doesn’t stray from her innate goodness, fighting back by proving she deserves to be happy. Both Maria and the world are portrayed as monsters, giving only to take away; but you can’t take away from someone that never had anything in the first place, even though Nevena fills her life with wants from the various villages she calls “home” for a while. She already knows life is fleeting, and she positions herself to get as much out of it as she can while trying to stay under the radar, afraid of the threat Maria says she poses to the villagers, who she says will tear her apart when they find out what she is.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, You Won't Be Alone, Focus FeaturesExperiencing the beauty and darkness of this small microcosm through Nevena’s eyes is a wonder. There’s a heartbreaking truth writer/director Goran Stolevski so reverently and skillfully wishes to impart on us, that we are all empty shells, and what we fill ourselves with – either desperately holding onto that which enhances our inherent good natures or allowing evil to take us in its grasp – makes all the difference. We’re usually taught love, hate, ignorance, common sense, and the wisdom to know which is which by our families. You Won’t Be Alone takes it a step further and shows us what it’s like to learn these things as a teenager with no frame of reference. An audacious move, to be sure, and one that absolutely beguiles and entrances.

MPA Rating: R for violence and gore, sexual content, graphic nudity, and sexual assault. In Macedonian with English subtitles. Running time: 108 minutes. Released by Focus Features.

Posted in

Eddie Pasa

Eddie is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). Since starting in 2010 at The Rogers Revue, Eddie has written for Reel Film News (now defunct), co-founded DC Filmdom, and writes occasionally for Gunaxin. When not reviewing movies, he's spending time with his wife and children, repeat-viewing favorites on Blu-Ray, working for rebranding agency Mekanic, or playing acoustic shows and DJing across the DC/MD/VA area. Special thanks go to Jenn Carlson, Moira and Ari Pasa, Viki Nova at City Dock Digital in Annapolis, Mike Parsons, Philip Van Der Vossen, and Dean Rogers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.