Goran Stolevski’s “You Won’t Be Alone” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival yesterday. Most of the well-known outlets have published their reviews, which are very positive, including a 5-star-review from The Guardian and being called “Among the Best Horror Debuts in Years” by IndieWire. Throughoutthose reviews, we learn more about the film’s story beyond the synopsis and about Noomi’s role,which is part of an ensemble and not the focal point, despite her being prominently featured in the advertisments. Here’s a collection of excerpts with links to the full reviews.
The Hollywood Reporter, John Defore (January 22, 2022)
Noomi Rapace is listed first in fest catalog credits and featured prominently in key art, but she’s just one of a few actors playing the role, and gets far from the most screen time. We meet the witch as an ordinary human infant, recently born to an angry woman in a 19th-century Macedonian village. The mother is visited by a frightening figure whose body is covered in scars — sometimes called a “wolf-eateress,” she is known in local lore as Old Maid Maria. She wants to take the baby.
Variety, Peter Debruge (January 22, 2022)
A veteran shorts director who brings years of experimentation and experience to his boldly unconventional feature debut, Stolevski has crafted a lyrical cinematic folktale. The language and setting are unfamiliar – a 19th-century Balkan village, where people speak in a half-forgotten local dialect – but there’s a clear narrative logic to it all, even if the first time through, audiences may as well accept they won’t get everything about the plot. For those who don’t mind a bit of a challenge, “You Won’t Be Alone” feels like what we might get if A24 commissioned an art-house horror movie from “The Tree of Life” director Terrence Malick. The film’s last act brings everything full circle in a way that should satisfy both horror and art-house audiences, but then the movie, like its protagonist, is never content to be just one thing.
The Guardian, Benjamin Lee (January 22, 2022)
With just short films under his belt before this, Stolevski is operating at a higher, more assured level than most with a great deal more experience. As a director, he’s as thrilled by the specifics of nature and human interaction as his protagonist, picking out the curious small things and suddenly making them that feel that much bigger, cracking open this world for us all. As a writer, he’s capable of remarkable insight and empathy, shown most effectively in the late-stage reveal of a harrowing backstory for the wolf-eateress, a woman destroyed by male expectation and judgment. His film toys with fairy tale fantasy and gruesome body horror – there are plenty of torn innards on display – but he has ultimately created something indefinable, gloriously so, like nothing we’ve really ever seen before and like nothing we’re likely to see again.
IndieWire, Ryan Lattanzio (January 22, 2022)
Director Goran Stolevski is going places, thanks to this challenging, melancholy, and impeccably crafted witch story co-starring Noomi Rapace. Nevena’s first conquest is put-upon, domestically abused village wife Bosilka (played by Rapace), one in a long line of hosts Nevena will take on with giddy and sometimes accidental abandon throughout the film. Still unable to speak, Nevena, installed in Bosilka’s body, can now touch, see, and feel as a human does – and those revelations have consequences. She’s stumbling through civilized life with an almost “Under the Skin”-like sense of discovery, and Stolevski aligns us closely with what it sounds and looks like (thanks to Matthew Chuang’s tactile, often uncomfortably close camera) to be a newly reborn person with no concept of human interaction thrust into vigorous life.
The Wrap, Simon Abrams (January 22, 2022)
Stolevski’s consideration of Nevena’s emotional journey often appears shallow, given how fast he moves from moment to moment. Rapace’s expressive performance may suit her character, but still looks campy given how much of the movie’s quick-cut montage style of drama reduces her character to the actress’ disjointed body language. Instead of allowing Nevena/Bosilka’s actions and behavior to articulate coherent thoughts or feelings about her character, we’re often left with a jumble of images and concepts that suggest many ideas without fully articulating any. […] The movie’s heavy-handed and often distracting impressionistic style – lots of too-tight extreme close-ups, wobbly hand-held camerawork, whispery stream-of-conscious voiceover narration, and over-edited montages – will understandably frustrate some viewers and draw comparisons to recent dramas directed by Terrence Malick as well as Robert Eggers’ “elevated horror” movies “The Witch” and “The Lighthouse.”
Deadline, Todd McCarthy (January 22, 2022)
Terrence Malick meets Robert Eggers in You Won’t Be Alone, a bloody—and bloody good—vampire tale that squeezes quite a few new twists out of fundamentally familiar material. Rapturously beautiful and sufficiently different from its bloodsucking brethren to engage fresh interest in aspects of the undead, Australian director Goran Stolevski’s very confident debut feature goes places its generic brethren never thought of visiting. The icing on the cake is a camera style that clearly owes its existence to Malick and his various cinematographers of the past couple of decades. Matthew Chuang’s camera is constantly in motion, floating, darting, swirling, dashing inward and out, up and down, moving with the actors and sweeping everything along in a whirlwind of activity and almost always beautiful synch with where the actors are and where they’re headed next. The film virtually seems choreographed.
Slash Film, Chris Evangelista (January 23, 2022)
After killing new mother Bosilka (Noomi Rapace), Nevena takes on her appearance. The change is noticed immediately by the people of Bosilka’s village – they don’t understand why she’s suddenly acting so strange, so inhuman. This segment of the film has Rapace doing memorable work as she plays a character struggling to be human — she studies other people and fake-laughs when they laugh, bearing too many teeth, looking too unnatural. She swats away people who try to comfort her. She eyes her “husband” with confusion, and he eyes her with disdain. Try as she might, she can never quite get it right. Those who gravitate towards folk horror will likely enjoy the rustic, rural charms mixed with blood and gore at work in ‘You Won’t Be Alone.” And there are moments of striking beauty woven within the fabric of the narrative. And those almost completely unfamiliar with the subgenre might find the film as a whole to be eye-opening. But the film’s “been there, done that” elements are too familiar for their own good, and a glacial pace mixed with a repetitive storytelling format certainly doesn’t help matters.