‘You Won’t Be Alone’ Review: Season of the Witch

“You Won’t Be Alone,” the ravishing, wildly original first feature from Goran Stolevski, moves so hypnotically between dream and nightmare, horror and fairy tale that, once bound by its spell, you won’t want to be freed.

Set in a mountain village in 19th-century Macedonia and drawing on regional folklore, Stolevski’s supremely confident script centers on Nevena (Sara Klimoska), an innocent young woman driven by an intense curiosity. To protect her from an ancient witch (Anamaria Marinca) who lusts after the blood of newborns, Nevena’s mother had hidden her in a cave from birth until her 16th birthday. When the witch returns on that date and abducts Nevena — having rendered her mute in infancy — the young woman embarks on an astonishing, shape-shifting journey of death and discovery.

Unwaveringly committed to its singular vision, and softened by Matthew Chuang’s lushly seductive images, “You Won’t Be Alone” ponders more than one existential question. How should we understand human nature when we’ve never been nurtured? Soft scraps of narration, poetic and wonder-filled, allow us to glimpse Nevena’s thoughts as she accidentally kills a village woman (Noomi Rapace), opens her own chest cavity and stuffs the woman’s bloody organs inside. Assuming the woman’s shape, Nevena will go on to inhabit a series of villagers, mirroring behaviors and soaking up experiences.

Along the way, this strange, deeply humane movie becomes a beguiling meditation on identity and gender, underscoring the precarity of women in a society ruled by men. Within its mystical borders, tenderness and savagery walk side by side, and a palm stretched out in friendship may conceal a witch’s claw.

You Won’t Be Alone
Rated R for sexual assault and a satisfying revenge. Running time: 1 hour 48 minutes. In theaters.

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