After leading Blue Ruin and appearing in both Green Room and Murder Party, Macon Blair has now graduated the University of Director Jeremy Saulnier and has written and directed his own film, with a very long title, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore tells the story of a bored, and possibly depressed Nursing Assistant, Ruth (Melanie Lynskey), whose already bad day is ruined completely when she returns home to find she has been robbed. Unsatisfied with the police response, she attempts to solve the crime herself and becomes an unlikely vigilante.
After winning the Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore was picked up by Netflix as part of their recent push into mainstream movie distribution. It’s an interesting move that subverts the standard model, but there are consequences for filmmakers who take that road – more on that later…
Ruth begins to make progress with her investigation and, upon crossing paths with her weirdo neighbour Tony (Elijah Wood), realises she needs back up and enlists him to her cause. While Elijah Wood seems a strange choice at first, everything about his character makes sense when he explains the details of how to correctly sidekick somebody in the head. It’s a fun moment to have a sidekick in a movie talk about doing actual sidekicks, and while he resembles a real-life Robin, there is a real-life practicality to the events here. In a time when some may be sick of Superhero movies dominating the box office, this style of indie is the antidote.
But it’s Ruth who is the heart of the story, and if you are one of those people who lament the decline of civilisation through the lense of people’s poor queue etiquette, then this is the movie for you. Ruth is downtrodden in a very recognisable way. She lives in a street without gutters, but craves a more ordered society, and as her search for justice morphs into a path of self-improvement, Melanie Lynskey makes Ruth very easy to root for. Lynskey’s career has somehow escaped unscathed from her years on Two and a Half Men and she has cemented her position as an independent movie darling since working with the Duplass brother on Togetherness.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is more than a spiritual cousin to Blue Ruin, it’s like both films are themselves the offspring of siblings that got married – that’s how much shared DNA they seem to share. They both sound great (Macon Blair’s two younger brothers are responsible for the scores on both) and look very similar, which isn’t surprising as they share many crew members. But for all they have in common, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore lacks the tension that Saulnier generates, with Blair leaning more towards comedy. That may sound like a criticism, but when combined with the likeable Lynskey in the lead, the humour makes it a much more accessible film.
While it’s an easy watch, the downside of that comfortableness is the lack of stakes. Ruth’s view of the world is so pessimistic and her hope to improve it is so futile, that how the final act resolves itself doesn’t feel all that urgent. Now, some of that may have to do with the viewing platform itself, as it’s possible that part of the slightly underwhelming feel of the movie comes from not appreciating it on the big screen, risking an increased sense of disposability when you don’t have to leave your couch to view it. Which brings us to the upside: you don’t have to leave your couch to watch it.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10