When a depressed woman is burglarised, she finds a new sense of purpose by tracking down the thieves alongside her obnoxious neighbour. But they soon find themselves dangerously out of their depth against a pack of degenerate criminals.
When Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) sighs in I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, it feels like she’s a conduit for the frayed patience of a world shedding all forms of human decency. Kind of appropriate in 2017, no?
Over a few days, Ruth has a patient die on her; she gets cut off in line at the supermarket; her lawn is covered in dog faeces from inconsiderate neighbours; and someone spoils a fantasy novel she’s reading. The final straw is when her home is burgled. Ruth’s laptop and her deceased grandmother’s silver collection are stolen – enough is enough.
Writer and director, Macon Blair (the actor who appeared in Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin and Green Room) has learnt about the escalation of violence from his old boss. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is the perfect way to complete an unofficial Blair/Saulnier trilogy.
Blair eases Ruth and Tony (Elijah Wood) into the seedy side of criminality after the police fail to get immediate results. It starts out straightforward when Ruth uses a ‘find my laptop’ app to track her missing computer on her own. But the further they press on, driven by rage for being slighted, the more violent and unhinged it gets. If weapons appear, Blair ensures there’s maximum damage and gore. A life of crime is chaos and I Don’t Feel at Home In This World Anymore spirals out of control with Ruth and Tony caught in the storm. And it’s all happening in a small American town. Depravity slinks into the suburbs and the humble residence become a force of vengeance. We’re used to the faces of men worn down by society in urban cities in films like Death Wish, Falling Down and Taxi Driver, but not so much when it comes to women. Female characters are often labelled as hysterical or psychotic when trying to get retribution, see: Fatal Attraction. Lynskey’s performance impeccably combines lethargy and a subdued rage to create a character who’s ready to give up, but you yearn for her to press on and get justice. She eventually becomes a backyard vigilante. In a way, Ruth’s experience is a grisly reawakening for her character, who pushes back on a world gone to hell. Wood is great as the wildcard who shifts from silent companion to kung fu master in a heartbeat. Wood’s Tony is more withdrawn from society than Ruth and spends time blocking it out with giant headphones. When Ruth cracks open his mental shield from the world his enthusiasm to do the right thing is infectious and dangerous. Together, Lynskey and Wood make an incredible duo, one can only hope they get more chances to sleuth together in future films; oh, please let there be a follow up Mr. Blair.
A refreshing element to Blair’s film is how Ruth and Tony never become accustomed to what they’re experiencing in their quest for justice. They don’t become overnight action heroes or desensitised to the carnage they witness. They remain grounded and it gives the film a knockabout quality, which allows things to get messy while never betraying the good-natured side of these characters. Ruth and Tony make mistakes, which is where Blair deploys his dry, dark sense of humour– the major difference between Sauliner and Blair as filmmakers – with their amateur status as detectives. In a pivotal scene, Ruth reacts to a bullet wound by vomiting, a lot, proving there’s humanity left in her when ammo starts eviscerating flesh.
Netflix have their first truly great original film with I Don’t Feel at Home In This World Anymore. It wowed the Sundance Film Festival 2017 where it won the Grand Jury Prize. I Don’t Feel at Home In This World Anymore goes searching for life when immorality rules, and if it’s a little downtrodden, it claws it back from the jaws of monsters to reclaim a slice of decency.
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