I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. (2017)
Director: Macon Blair | Runtime: 1h 33mins | Comedy, Crime, Drama
Nursing Assistant Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) has a hard time navigating the selfishness of people, which unfortunately leaves her angry a lot of the time. It isn’t until her house is broken into that she finds a new lease in life, and with the help of her odd neighbour Tony (Elijah Wood), she decides to take matters into her own hands.
“People are just a**holes and dildos.” This is the line that perfectly exemplifies just what Blair’s off-beat indie comedy is trying to say, not just in the general sense of crime or murder, but even in day-to-day society just how much awareness people have of other people. Ruth is constantly bending over backwards to be good, and unfortunately has her house robbed in return. While this sets up the majority of the film, Blair is very keen to show you just some of the insensitive actions of everyday life, from cars pulling out in front of Ruth, people cutting in line at the grocery store, and even having her book spoiled by a random man at the bar. In just a few short scenes we can feel the hefty annoyance that Ruth feels, and it’s not because they are so ‘out there’, but rather because of their relatability.
It does feel like Blair is channeling the energy of every other off-beat comedy out there, in a good way though, as Tony feels like a character straight out of Napoleon Dynamite (2004) with his geek demeanour and unqualified confidence in combat. Along with Ruth’s amped up rampage of sorts still layered with her apologetic self, you could place her in Ghost World (2001) or you could even probably see her cropping up in a Coen Brother’s comedy. But while the characters and the action feels familiar Blair keeps his film on track with great use of his dialogue to shape the characters, and also slowly evolving his message a long with the action, which helps to breakdown the film’s structure but never jolts it.
The film starts of course starts with the “people are terrible” and keeps to this pattern throughout, but where the film finds most of it’s praise is in it’s ability to alter the simplest of actions to slowly change what the film is about. The film’s clear message early on is quickly turned when Ruth begins to see red, ripping up garden ornaments painfully slow (something that reeks of off-beat comedy), and in doing so tarnishes her samaritan beliefs and also her newfound friendship with Tony. In doing this it becomes more about trying not to stoop to that level, the level we have seen from basically everyone but the two protagonist throughout the entire film. It quickly changes the pace of the film but sets up a violent and satisfying end.
You could say that Blair gets caught up in how off-beat his film is trying to be, occasionally treating his serious moments with too much wackiness, like the final shootout where Ruth spends the entire thing vomiting in the most cartoon way. But other than that the balance is there, with two leading performances from Lynskey and Wood to carry the film. This film is head-strong in it’s message, and doesn’t wear it thin but instead cleverly evolves it to something much more layered. This is one of the unspoken gems on Netflix, and of the current streaming era we are in.