After starring in Jeremy Saulnier’s gripping indie drama Blue Ruin and playing a pivotal role in last year’s punk-infused thriller Green Room, Macon Blair moves behind the camera for his directorial debut, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. The film, which Blair also wrote, was warmly received by critics and audiences alike at the Sundance Film Festival, where it took home the Grand Jury Prize en route to its Netflix premiere.
Quiet and a bit on the nerdy side, Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) spends most of her time wondering why everyone is such an asshole – a sentiment that audiences will no doubt easily relate to. When she comes home after a long day to find her home ransacked by burglars, it’s little more than a confirmation of her existing worldview: everyone sucks. The police are less than helpful, with a detective placing blame for the crime squarely at Ruth’s feet, and refusing to investigate when she uses a tracking app to locate her stolen laptop at a nearby residence.
Frustrated well past the point of rational thought, Ruth enlists the help of her ponytail-sporting, martial arts enthusiast neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood) to confront the criminals. When he shows up at this house of ill repute sporting a leather jacket, aviator shades and an impressive set of ninja weaponry, we know we’re in for a treat, and Wood doesn’t disappoint, doling out stainless steel throwing stars and sagelike nuggets of wisdom in equal measure. It’s all completely bananas, and Wood is an absolute delight to watch here.
But this is still Lynskey’s show, and it’s fascinating to watch her fall down the rabbit hole of the criminal underworld in search of her stolen goods, getting progressively more pissed off with every moment. Her performance is reminiscent of Michael Douglas in Falling Down, with the shirt and tie replaced by a hoodie and a pair of jeans, and there’s a certain amount of joy in the borderline vigilantism in which she engages. We’ve all wanted to lash out at some rich douchebag by destroying a pretentious piece of lawn art, and it’s oddly fulfilling to see that scenario play out on the screen.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is a solid debut from Blair, who is mostly successful in balancing the film’s tricky tone – at least until the inevitable confrontation between Ruth and the mastermind behind the break-in escalates into brutal violence that leaves behind all vestiges of humor. There are shades of Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers here, but without the same panache.
Blair also does a great job handling the relationship between Ruth and Tony, never taking the easy route by allowing it to blossom into a full-blown romance. Instead, things are kept strictly platonic, which seems far more believable for these characters, and Blair’s true talents shine through in the authenticity of their connection. At its core, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is about these two outcasts who refuse to play by society’s rules, and the kinship they find in each other – and to that end, Blair’s first effort is a winner.