There’s not much happening right now, so let’s pick some straws to keep us entertained. The review site of Roger Ebert has asked ten contributors to pick three films from 2022 that they think everyone should see before making their top ten lists of the year, and Goran Stolevski’s “You Won’t Be Alone” is among Clint Worthington’s picks.
You’d be forgiven for seeing the trailer for Romanian director Goran Stolevski’s “You Won’t Be Alone” and dismissing it as just another riff on “The Witch.” But just like its mercurial main character, it’s a film that requires you to peel back the skin of its marketing to feast upon the tasty flesh beneath. Set in 19th-century Macedonia, Stolevski’s debut follows a young peasant girl named Nevena (Sara Klimoska, at first) kidnapped by the witch-creature (Anamaria Marinca) who lives in the woods outside her village. Not long after, she’s left to her own devices with nothing but this terrifying new gift and no understanding of the outside world. What follows is nothing short of mesmerizing, a Grimm’s fairy tale soaked in blood and curiosity. Matthew Chuang’s shallow-focus 1.66:1 cinematography seeps us in the Malickian haze of Nevena’s journey, turning each flesh-ripping chapter in her path of self-discovery into a thing of perverse romance. Every few minutes, a new actor takes the mantle of Nevena’s “skin,” whether Noomi Rapace’s doomed mother or Carlota Cotta’s comely Boris, or the children (and men) she tries on for a bit. In so doing, she (and we) get a crash course in the joys and vagaries of humanity, in all the orgasmic highs and violent lows it entails. “You Won’t Be Alone” cries out for a queer reading, with the innate fluidity of gender and expression its character experiences. And it requires more patience and rumination than you might be ready for. But few films entranced me at Sundance this year quite like this one.