"What do you want?"
"For people to not be assholes."
Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) is tired of everybody being “such assholes”. Coming home from a long day at work to find her house has been broken into is the final straw as she, along with the help of her church-going, ninja star throwing, punk rock neighbour Tony (Elijah Wood), decides to track down the culprits and take justice into her own hands.
“I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore” is the debut feature from writer/director Macon Blair, most known for his acting work in Jeremy Saulnier’s excellent revenge film “Blue Ruin” and the more recent nazi/punk rock thriller “Green Room” (which Blair also co-produced). Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was quickly bought by Netflix, it’s a film that quickly establishes Blair as a force to be reckoned with behind the camera. While it could be said there’s a similarity in style and tone between Saulnier and Blair’s work, “I Don’t Feel At Home” is its own wholly original and darkly funny beast.
In a star making turn the always brilliant Melanie Lynskey gives her all as the beleaguered Ruth, constructing a character that's somehow both worldly and naïve at the same time. This combination works to create a performance that is instantly endearing, making the innocence and the sense of justice that fuels her character all the more impactful as we follow her on her vigilante quest to get back her Grandmother’s silverware (...but really bring some meaning into her quiet, lonely life).
There are few actors whose growth I have appreciated more than Elijah Wood and here he is unhinged and it’s glorious. What starts as a bizarre, seemingly one-note character of “weird neighbour with a rat tail and nunchucks” quickly becomes the heart of the entire film. Immediately identifying the real issue Ruth is dealing with he becomes not only a companion on her quest but a much needed friend and voice of reason in her more darker moments. Wood’s performance brings some much needed levity to the films back half as the film slowly twists and turns into a darker, more sinister journey than our characters or the viewing audience could have expected.
Blair’s script is a master class in building tension and shifting tone. As the films characters progress on their journey he begins to slowly but surely shift from a quirky homespun detective tale into an ultra-violent thriller that you can’t keep your eyes off, all the while maintaining a cheeky sense of dark humour bubbling under the surface. The fact that this shift is done so subtly, considering the vast depth of the genres it straddles, proves the pure talent Blair possess as a writer/director.
Beautifully shot by cinematographer Larkin Seiple whose images work to both compliment and enhance the tonal shifts the script provides (not unlike his equally gorgeously shot “Swiss Army Man” from last year). The somewhat muted colour palates and changes in scenery make moments of sunshine, and conversely terror, all the more impactful as he shifts his lens from the claustrophobic atmosphere of Ruth’s small home to the vast foreboding woods on the outskirts of Portland. It’s a film that really should be seen on the big screen to be appreciated, however Netflix will do for now until it finds a cult following and begins its late night arthouse screenings.
Taking home the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance film festival, “I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore” is a film that is fun, thrilling, scary, violent, hysterical and brilliantly original. Led by career best performance from its lead actors, Lynskey and Wood, the debut film acts as a boisterous introduction to a fantastic new voice in independent cinema as writer/director Macon Blair crafts a weird and wonderful film that grabs hold of its audience and won’t let go till the credits roll. It’s the first truly great film of 2017.
9 out of 10.
Reviewed by Chris Swan.