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“You Won’t Be Alone” is a unique story rich in Macedonian folklore — a must-see for anyone who enjoyed “The Witch” and other similar films.

Goran Stolevski’s debut film, You Won’t Be Alone, is a horror film with similarities to The Haunting of Bly Manor, in that they both contain horrific elements but are, at their core, raw and humanistic stories.

It begins with Nevena (Sara Klimoska), a baby whose mother bargained for her life when the witch, Old Maid Maria (Anamaria Marinca), appeared in their home. The agreement stated that the child would remain with her mother until she was sixteen, at which point Maria would take her and train her as a witch.

After striking the deal, her mother hides Nevena from the witch in a sacred cave, hoping to keep her safe from the abductions but cutting her off from human interaction as she grows up.

When Maria comes to retrieve her, it’s the first chance she has to experience the world outside of her cave.

Despite her mother’s warnings of how wicked the outside world can be, Nevena is enraptured with the beauty and gentleness of nature. She holds a childlike wonder for the things around her and the experiences she missed out on for so many years.

Even when Maria’s warnings echo her mother’s, Nevena craves the sense of community she was deprived of while growing up.

She explores this by taking on the form of other creatures through dark magic and submerges herself into a world she’s never known.

The story of YOU WON'T BE ALONE balances the bleakness and vileness of the world with the beauty of life and the human experience. Click To Tweet

We see four iterations of Nevena’s identity throughout the film: her true self, a woman (Noomi Rapace), a man (Carloto Cotta), and a young girl (Alice Englert).

They each mimic Nevena’s characteristic facial expressions and mannerisms in a way that truly transports you into the story. It’s easier to believe that they are all the same girl in different forms rather than four separate actors embodying one character.

The spectrum of emotions each of the characters experiences is achingly authentic, and it’s one of the strongest performances I’ve seen from a cast in a long time.

You Won’t Be Alone offers a truly atmospheric experience spurred on by both cinematography and sound design.

The cinematographic captures the stunning yet rough terrain of the Macedonian wilderness, depicting the setting to be just as multifaceted as its people. The vastness of the scenery makes the viewer feel just as isolated as Nevena.

On the other hand, the sound design is horrific in every way it should be.

The visceral reaction I had to the sound of nails digging into flesh is not something I’ll forget soon and is honestly one of the creepier aspects of the world they brought to life.

It’s the type of film that a cinephile can dig their claws into (pun intended). The scares are unique in a way that doesn’t keep you on the edge of your seat but instead fills you with a primal dread and helplessness.

You Won’t Be Alone premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival under the World Cinema Dramatic Competition category and had a US theatrical release on April 1st. Based on the film’s storytelling and artistic vision, I’m looking forward to seeing what Stolevski has in store for us next.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies)

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