I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (dir. Macon Blair, 2017) – Enlisting the help of her eccentric neighbour, Ruth Kimke is on a mission to track down the thieves that burglarised her home.
A well-acted and written reflection on humanity woes, Macon Blair’s solid directorial debut regrettably misses potential for stronger emotional impact.
Sometimes, the world seems out to get you. Or at least that is how Ruth Kimke (Melanie Lynskey) feels. Her home just doesn’t feel like home anymore, especially not after it has been broken into. When the burglary falls low on the police’s priorities, the dowdy depressive finds herself sinking deeper into her mental chasm that echoes: The world is an asshole-occupied Hell.
Spurred by a growing existential crisis, Ruth decides to take matters into her own hands. The gentle soul at heart gets help in the form of her shuriken-wielding, metalhead neighbour Tony (Elijah Wood). With a ping on her stolen laptop’s location, things are starting to look up. That is until the pair unwittingly comes to face the worst in humanity.
Not another quirky indie drama, the audience grumbles. And on the face of it, the offbeat set-up does seem headed for a spirited road trip of eventual self-discovery. But the apparent sweet slice of realism sidesteps expectations of a trite journey towards enlightenment, broadening into something out of a darker neo-noir thriller.
First-time director Macon Blair transits into moodier and bloodier territory with ease and a welcome touch of black comedy. All that time spent collaborating with fellow filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier has certainly paid off in a big way.
However, his intended message on humanity feels lost to the chaotic second half. There is a lack of the pivotal moment, necessary to evoke our inmost emotions and leave lasting impact. In such evocative scenes of revelation, films like Barton Fink and Burn After Reading have done better.
Ultimately, what anchors the film is Melanie Lynskey’s pitch-perfect turn as Ruth. Her struggle with depression is never reduced to a kooky personality trait. A cynical idealist seeking a meaningful connection, every sliver of her grievances feels genuine and relatable. It is clear that Tony is destined to play second fiddle as her oddball partner, even though Elijah Wood makes his antics fun to watch. (Plus a Judas Priest-loving, fantasy-reading nerd is obviously out for my heart.)
On the other end, the antagonists bring little more than histrionic violence and caricature villainy. But where this Sundance/Netflix indie succeeds, is in portraying a larger adversary that we can all relate to. The real battle that Ruth Kimke pits herself against is after all, our ugly world diseased with apathy. And no matter how tough things get, she is on the way to making the best of it.