Following an awfully artificial triptych structure, Willow's most prominent themes include mothers, destiny, and the quest for children. While I respect the attempt at an unorthodox approach to storytelling, Manchevski offers little to compensate for the confusion and incoherence between the three different storylines. Aside their connection through bloodline, their characters' stories are so indifferent to one another they feel like three short films bound together. But as with most of Manchevski's work, it might fit better in a medium along the lines of a novel, or possibly a poem. The story it wants to convey is deep, amazing and sublime. The film is not. I believe it to be Willow's main obstacle in its mission to be considered as something more than an experimental film.
In this endeavor, few elements stand out in a positive sense, one of which is the cinematography with its infrequent moments of beauty. Whether in the untamed Macedonian wilderness or the thick urban jungle, the camera sometimes finds a unique sight, intertwined with the film's symbols. The disruption caused by the film's other shortcomings prevents those moments from rising to their intended elegance.
Another such short lived idiosyncrasy is the way Teodosieva and Tocinovski's characters send objects up and down their balconies with a little basket. These unicorn moments add a deeper dimension to the characters and it's a shame they're the highlight of the characters’ traits.
Manchevski's film also harbors elements which aren't crucial to the story at hand. Most notable is the softcore erotic scene featuring the nudity of one of the film's young beauties. Willow could also do without several dialogue sequences and scenes such as the sisters' public verbal exchange in the fountain. They take away from the story's realism and suspend the viewer's suspension of disbelief.
On a positive note, Klimoska and Risteski shine in their respective roles and the rest of the cast does a decent job keeping up. Though impressive, the acting does little to salvage the characters' likeability and character arc. The lack of empathy for them results in a painstaking wait for the feature to end. It's true that the three protagonists have reasonable goals as characters, though fall short in terms of importance as they're compelled to do what the plot tells them. As such, what emerges is a bland sequence of events in which neither the characters nor the audience participate. It doesn’t make for an engaging moviegoing experience.
The music does not help in this regard. While it maybe fits the cultural surroundings of both time periods, it feels bland and generic. It phases in and out of existence at random, disregarding the highs and lows of the storyline.
The story might have been a heartfelt idea on paper, however it's been completely lost in translation on its way to the big screen. Quite unsurprisingly, Willow represents just another chapter in Manchevski's book of lazily written quasi-art films.