Goran Stolevski’s supernatural drama “You Won’t Be Alone” is a curious watch as it tries to talk about identity and gender while using the form of the supernatural horror genre. In many of its moments, it does so quite successfully, as young woman Nevena walks through forests discovering leaves, water drops, and the general calmness of life, with her dark long pointy witch nails and other-worldly powers. With a slow pace and an effort to be artistic, that isn’t for every horror film fan, “You Won’t Be Alone” can be a compelling watch for those willing to give it a chance.
‘You Won’t be Alone’ Plot Summary
In a remote village in the hills of Macedonia sometime in the 19th century, a woman obsessively cares for her baby, which she has possibly had after a long wait. She alarmedly notices a cat slip into her room, which then turns into a ghastly old woman with a few strands of hair on her head and her skin completely burned and cracked. The mother is quick to realize that her visitor is the feared Old Maid Maria, a witch that has haunted the village for many years. For some unknown reason, Maria has now come to fetch the baby, a girl, to turn her into her successor. The mother begs and pleads with the witch and offers her a solution—to let her raise her daughter till she is sixteen years old, and then to take her away. Maria, surprisingly agrees to it, knowing well that a human cannot outwit her. The mother quickly cooks up a plan of her own. She takes the baby to a temple in the caves that is supposedly blessed by gods where evil spirits cannot enter. She leaves her daughter there for the next sixteen years, visiting her every day with food and essentials but never letting her out of the caves. The young girl, Nevena, grows up inside the closed space with her own silent thoughts, as she has even lost her speech since Maria had put her sinister touch on her. She does express her desire to go out into the open world at times, but her mother vehemently disagrees. Sometime soon after turning sixteen, an eagle flies into the cave and resides there; the mother realizes who it is and tries to kill it, but it does not obviously work.
Sounds of bones crackling are heard from behind a rock, and then the mother appears, but with a completely different demeanor. She leads Nevena out of the cave and back to their home, where she strikes down a donkey and sucks its blood out. It is clear that the woman is Old Maid Maria, in the physical form of the mother. She then performs a ritual on Nevena called “the witch’s spit,” which turns Nevena into a witch, with similar-looking nails and an extra finger out of her palm, and also with the powers that a witch possesses. Nevena, though, does not understand much of anything, as she still tries to explore and comprehend the world. Much like a young girl, she finds beauty and compassion in nature, fireflies, and rabbits, which angers stern Maria, and she goes away from Nevena, deserting her. Nevena keeps on getting overwhelmed, pondering about the world, until one day she strays close to a village and sees a woman give birth.
Major Spoilers Ahead
What Does Nevena Do When She Realizes What It Means To Be A Witch?
Nevena follows the group of women to their village and finds the house of the woman who she saw give birth. Extreme curiosity takes over her mind, and she sneaks into the house to see the baby, which she finds lying in the barn all alone. Nevena stares at the baby with interest as its mother runs into the scene and pulls the witch away. As Nevena does not look any different from humans other than in her supernatural hands, the mother does not realize her identity and trips over her sharp nails, killing herself accidentally. Nevena is shocked at first, and then, almost involuntarily, she does what she had earlier seen Maria do—she pulls out the mother’s heart and shoves it into her own chest, which transforms her into the baby’s mother, Bosilka. The switchover is apparent to Bosilka’s family, as the woman has suddenly stopped talking and also acts very strangely, but they do not realize that she is a witch in disguise. In the form of Bosilka, Nevena gradually learns the treachery of men against women in society, as she is often hit by her husband and through other smaller instances, like getting to eat only after the men in the house have eaten. It is Bosilka’s mother-in-law who gives her the only support, as she tries to bring her daughter-in-law back to normalcy by teaching her household chores and taking her to gatherings of village women. One night, her husband tries to force himself on her in bed, and Nevena, completely unaware of such an act, stabs the husband to death. She runs away from the village and takes back her real form, and starts to understand the attraction of men towards women.
One day, she lures one of the men in the village, Boris, to get physically intimate with her, and although starting to enjoy it at first, the man’s sudden aggressive dominance shocks her, and again she stabs him to death, perhaps this time more consciously. She now turns into Boris and is even more bewildered as she is now in a man’s body. The most noticeable thing is the treatment that she generally gets from everyone around her, which is starkly different from how she was treated as Bosilka. Boris’ family lets her eat as much as she wants and however she likes, and they conduct rituals to drive off evil spirits from his body, all of which is tender and very different from the rudeness that women are used to. One afternoon, a woman, possibly Boris’ wife, leads her to a barn where they spend an intimate time. Nevena knows this woman, as she had once approached her with support and help as Bosilka after the woman was beaten by her husband and his family, and now getting intimate with her in the form of Boris, Nevena for the first time comprehends sexuality and intimacy. She spends some more days as Boris until one day, when she gets word of an accident that has killed one of the village girls. She rushes to the spot to find the body lying alone, and quickly decides to take the form of the young girl, Biliana. When the girl’s family reach the spot, they find her bloodied clothes and guts, and then find their daughter alive and gladly bring her back home. Nevena keeps living as a girl, with her life now filled with the adventurous activities of childhood. She decides to stay put as Biliana and grow up as her.
It is Nevena’s discovery of the world, life, and what it means to be human that is the primary focus of the film. From early on, she yearns to learn and know more about her surroundings, and once she is left free in the world by Maria, she now becomes more interested in human life and society. Through her various forms, she creates an idea of a society that is not too far from reality, but that is hardly ever spoken of by anyone who normally grows up around human civilization. As Bosilka, she learns of the ways of women; that she is not supposed to open her mouth in the company of men, especially her husband, and also that it is deemed strange to keep one’s mouth shut in the company of women. She gradually learns how to signify laughter and crying, and interestingly notes that both require the same action. As Boris, she discovers the privileges of men in society, which seems to make everything and everyone turn in their favor. By the time she turns to Biliana, Nevena has perhaps realized more of who she is, and through Biliana, she lives out the playful and innocent childhood that she had never had. The film also focuses on the character of Old Maid Maria as well, who keeps returning to Nevena and insisting that human company would only turn out to be harmful to her and that she would ultimately be cheated. This is because Maria herself had a similar life; she used to be a village woman in search of a husband, a life partner, and was provided one by society after she had asked a witch to help her with it. But this husband was already on his death-bed, and the marriage was conducted only so that the man could have a child, a successor. The man died immediately after the marriage was consummated, and Maria too was about to die when she struck down a donkey to gain immortality through dark means. She was found by the villagers in this act, who tried to burn her at the stake publicly. Maria, of course, did not burn to death, but instead still bears the burnt skin from her horrific past. It is this past that disallows her to perceive humans with any compassion, and in the process, she herself has turned cold-hearted.
‘You Won’t Be Alone’ Ending Explained: Can Nevena Get Over Her Curse And Live On Like A Human?
Nevena grows up to be a young woman as Bilina, and she madly falls in love with her childhood sweetheart, Jovan. The man is also equally silent as Nevena, and the two find immense peace and happiness with each other. They get married, despite Maria again warning Nevena that her lover would ultimately betray her and burn her alive. Nevena keeps believing in her love, and it finally pays off when one day, in a moment of extreme intimacy, she shows her real self to her husband. Jovan is definitely surprised at his wife’s strange hands and sinister nails, but he loves who she is from the inside, and her outside appearance does not matter to him at all. The couple happily lives on, and Nevena gets pregnant with their child. However, one day, she sees a giant boar in her courtyard with blood on its tusks and finds Jovan stabbed to death by the animal, which is Old Maid Maria in disguise. She spends her days in grief and then has the baby, who is the only reminder of her beloved. She always keeps her baby daughter clutched by her side, fearing that Maria would come for her too, and does not let anybody else touch her. That is exactly what happens one winter afternoon, when Maria appears in her real form and slits the baby’s throat. Nevena is desperate to save her daughter in whatever way possible, and she performs the same ritual that grants immortality to witches on her. The baby’s wounds heal quickly, and she is back to life, but she has turned into a witch herself, with black claws appearing on her tiny baby hands and feet.
It is ultimately Maria’s jealousy and deep-rooted frustration at the society that makes her act in such a manner. She tearfully asks Nevena how and why she had it so easy while Maria is still haunted by the memories of being burnt alive. Nevena stabs the old witch with her claws in response, and puts her out of her misery. She then clutches her daughter in her arms and remembers all the human forms she had taken, and perhaps recalls how it was not the easiest life, yet she managed to turn out to be a mother with human compassion.
“You Won’t Be Alone” is a 2022 Drama Horror Film written and directed by Goran Stolevski.