Released February 24, 2017 (On Netflix)
Rated TV-MA (Violence, Language, and Drug Use)
1 hr. 36 min.
Written and Directed by Macon Blair (Writer of Small Crimes, Co-Producer of Green Room)
Cinematography by Larkin Seiple (Cop Car, Swiss Army Man)
Music by Brooke and Will Blair (Blue Ruin, Green Room)
Edited by Tomas Vengris (Nakom, Kicks)
Produced by Mette-Marie Kongsved, Neil Kopp (Meek’s Cutoff, Night Moves), Vincent Savino (In Our Nature, Certain Women), and Anise Savjani (Wendy and Lucy, Hold the Dark)
Starring Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures, Up in the Air), Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Wilfred), Devon Graye (American Horror Story, I Am Michael), David Yow (Too Late, High and Outside), Gary Anthony Williams (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Key and Peele), Robert Longstreet (Take Shelter, Sabbatical), Christine Woods (The Odd Couple, Home Again), Jane Levy (Evil Dead, Don’t Breathe), Lee Eddy (Red vs. Blue, Mustang Island), Michelle Moreno (No Postage Necessary, UnREAL), Jason Manuel Olazabal (Inside Man, Dexter), J.J. Green (13th Sign, The Duff), and Macon Blair (Gold, Logan Lucky)
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore sports an unwieldy title but is truly a gem of an underrated independent film here in 2017. The directorial debut of indie actor, screenwriter, and producer Macon Blair, I Don’t Feel at Home (as I will call it from here on out) is like a Coen brothers film, but without their sharpness and lacking a bit of their strength in characterization, or a Hess brothers movie, in the quirkiness of everything, but made a little better than most of the Hess brothers’ movies, and a little more realistic.
It’s also a sort of Falling Down for 2017. If you don’t know anything about 1993’s Falling Down, it’s a quality, understated movie that you should watch as soon as you get done with I Don’t Feel at Home, as both are the kind of film we rarely see, but when we do see them, they’re a rewarding breath of fresh air.
Right from the beginning, we’re introduced to Ruth, who spends her nights alone, eavesdropping on her neighbor’s parties as she drinks beer from the bottle alone. Sometimes she shakes things up and drinks beer in a local bar, where she has the books she’s reading – in the bar – spoiled for her by a-holes with no regard.
Passive aggressive but caring at least somewhat, Ruth (Lynskey) is becoming increasingly frustrated at a-holes with no regard, and becoming more and more exasperated at what appears, to her, to be an ever increasingly frustrating world. She’s angered and annoyed by the sensational TV news; by immature road hogs; by fellow grocery store customers who knock items off the shelves and leave them; and by the inconsiderate, ungrateful a-holes at the hospital, where Ruth works as a nursing assistant in a post-op facility (which, as any nurse will tell you, is a thankless job by nature.) And how is she supposed to feel, supposed to react, when some spiteful, racist old lady she hates dies after spitting some specifically bitter vitriol? Because she’s a passive aggressive but good nurse, she shakes her head when asked if the woman had any last words, then she goes home and drinks another beer.
One day, Ruth comes home from a long shift to find her depressingly drab house broken into. It’s not much, the home or the items stolen, but she feels violated. There’s been a particularly intrusive breach, she feels, into her peace, her privacy, her humanity. To make matters worse, the cops don’t really seem to care about her lost silverware, laptop, Clonazepam, and Lexapro. Her house may appear exactly as it did the day her grandmother left it to her, but it’s her’s, dang it.
Lynskey plays Ruth as a subtly simmering, anxious meltdown waiting to happen. And when it does happen, she doesn’t overplay it. What does our existence in this world even mean? she ponders after the break-in. But not being much use at philosophizing, she tries something she’s never done before. She takes action.
That is, she takes action after coming to her last two straws: a dog whose owner continually lets it poop on her lawn, and a slow-moving, indifferent 911 operator. “People are disgusting assholes,” she whines to her sister (Eddy), who simply responds, “You’re doing better than most.”
The world here is bleak, but there are rays of hope, like Ruth’s sweet niece (Moreno), and a weird but ultimately helpful neighbor, Tony (Wood), who likes to listen to heavy metal and thinks he might could fight, if necessary, employing his working out skills, his numchuck skills, and his ninja star throwing skills. Tony’s is the dog who poops on Ruth’s lawn, but he’s as enraged as Ruth when he finds out about a break-in in his neigborhood.
Ruth enlists Tony’s help when she discovers where her laptop is located, thanks to the idiots turning it on, and she and Tony charge in and take it back. Ruth speaks with a confidence she’s never had, and Tony bloodies a dope-head’s mouth with his numchucks. And just like that, the dynamic duo are an avenging team. Meanwhile, the real criminal masterminds are out there, including a wannabe hobo criminal king of sorts, and with Ruth’s and Tony’s newly found taste for vigilantism, the lot are bound to cross paths some time or another.
Elijah Wood plays his half of the duo as off-kilter and way too confident. He’s happy to find a friend beyond his dog, he likes Saxon and Judas Priest, and he kinda likes Ruth too. He at least likes the possibility of something between them.
I Don’t Feel at Home is a zany little movie, and quirkily hilarious, an enjoyable hour-and-a-half adventure with eccentric, idiosyncratic characters, but you can swear you’ve seen them all before, and maybe you know them. Plus, I think we can all relate to the feeling of aggravation at a world that makes no sense, a world in which we’ve all wanted to take a stand yet find ourselves sitting idly by again and again. In that way, this is effective fantasy fulfillment without being too unrealistic. It’s bizarre but also oddly straightforward.
Check out I Don’t Feel at Home. It’s full of character and situational details you might find refreshing. It does have some structural and situational cliches and weaknesses, a few pacing issues, and one highly annoying fake-out. Yet it all makes sense, mostly, in the movie’s twistedly relatable world, and the fine performances (all around), the fun, and the oddities more than make up for the weaknesses. Toward the end, I Don’t Feel at Home gets especially peculiar, but if you can embrace it (I could), you’ll have a good time.
I’m going to give I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore an 80%.
I believe strongly in supporting creative smaller films like this one by filmmakers with an obvious passion for film-making.