by Rob DiCristino
To call Australian writer/director Goran Stolevski’s You Won’t Be Alone a supernatural horror film feels more than a bit misleading. Though it shares tonal and aesthetic qualities with the likes of Robert Eggers’ The Witch and Ari Aster’s Midsommar, Stolevski’s approach to what we’ve taken to calling “folk horror” is far more subdued — his coming-of-age witch story is gauzier, warmer, and more empathetic than those cousins, sharing perhaps the most in common with Johnathan Glazer’s Under the Skin. It’s certainly one of the more narratively challenging films of the genre, a story in which a single cutaway might convey months of passing time and a narrator’s voice may not resemble the physical body they’re occupying at any given moment. Though the scares are few and far between — again, it’s more supernatural drama than horror — You Won’t Be Alone knows exactly how and when to get gory, presenting some truly gnarly images that are sure to stick with those willing to wade through the film’s deliberately-paced waters long enough to see them unfold.
It’s here that You Won’t Be Alone’s central conceit is revealed: Nevena can live any number of lives — young, old, male, female — simply by using her blood-and-guts black magic to take over her body of choice. They’re the lives she never got to live growing up in that pit all alone, small and fleeting glimpses into the worlds of people she’ll never truly get to be. Killing and possessing her would-be rapist, Nevena sees the double standards inherent in a patriarchal society. Embodying a young girl who took an accidental fall off a cliff, Nevena finally gets to experience a mother’s love and the truly blissful innocence of childhood. Her transformations are less calculated decisions than they are haphazard discoveries; she’s stumbling through life the way we all do, trying to make logical sense of a cruel and illogical world. It’s torturous, of course, and Nevena’s quiet voice-over narration reveals an unending oscillation between hope and despair (“and yet…” becomes a common refrain in her darker, more pessimistic moments), which crescendos after the birth of her own child.
You Won’t Be Alone hits select theaters on April 1st.