Netflix UK film review: I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore
Ivan Radford | On 25, Feb 2017
Director: Macon Blair
Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood
Watch I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore online in the UK: Netflix UK
“What do you want?” Ruth (Lynskey) is asked halfway through I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. “For people to not be assholes,” she replies. It’s the cry of someone who’s had enough, who wants to do something about it, but who doesn’t have a clue what that is. It’s a recipe for unpredictable chaos, in the best possible way. The result is a film in which a ninja star gets lodged in someone’s face. In which a woman throws dog poo at Elijah Wood. And someone steals a tiger.
As far as directorial debuts go, Macon Blair’s is one of the most seemingly haphazard, but you get the sense that the actor, whom you’ll recognise from such films as Green Room and Blue Ruin, knows exactly what he’s doing.
We begin our tale with Ruth going through the motions of her existence. She’s a caregiver with a sense of alienation from the world around her that’s immediately tangible. She’s the kind of person who picks up a packet that someone else knocks off the shelf in a supermarket. The world? That’s full of the kind of people who push in front of her at the checkout. Even the people who pass away in her nursing home where she works are unexpectedly (and hilariously) rude. So when she goes home one day to discover she’s been burgled, and the police don’t seem to care, she takes matters into her own hands.
Stolen from her? A laptop, some of her granny’s silver, but mostly, her self-esteem. And so begins a campaign to reclaim some of that at the very least. Armed with an app that pings her computer’s location, she wades into the underworld, such as it is, her polite determination proving her biggest strength – and her biggest weakness. She’s aided (sort of), by her strange neighbour, Tony (Wood), who makes up for his own lack of sleuthing smarts with violent rage.
They make a charming odd couple, with both Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood enjoying the chance to find sympathy in their oddball antiheroes. Wood is as funny as he is disturbing, while Lynskey (so effortlessly natural in films such as Happy Christmas) infuses her righteous quest with a quiet melancholy and fragile sincerity. One opening scene, where she vents her existential uncertainty at a friend’s five-year-old daughter, is gently, sadly hilarious.
That sense of humour is what makes I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore such a joy to watch. Blair’s partnership with Green Room helmer Jeremy Saulnier echoes in the brutality lurking beneath the quirky surface of his low-key script – and, by the second half, things really do become extremely graphic. But there’s a surreal quality that feels every bit Blair’s own, as he deftly switches the tone from daft to dark without pausing for breath, the soft daylight glow of suburbia liable at any minute to explode into deadpan bewilderment and bloody payback. The kind of payback that mostly just asks for an apology.
The movie works best when we’re simply spending time with Ruth and Tony, the duo’s chemistry filtering the madness through a gaze in which all these events almost make sense. (Yes, even the tiger.) At a time when swathes of people feel disenfranchised and overlooked, and when others feel disconnected from the direction their country is taking, the sentiment of the movie’s title is perhaps unintentionally relatable, but there’s a thrill to seeing people fight for some semblance of civilisation. A commentary on the risks of taking justice into our own hands? A comedy about depression and identity? Whatever layers you peel back, or whether you simply enjoy the script’s confident juggling of contrasting moods, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is a warm, sweet, nasty treat. It’s a hugely promising calling card for Macon Blair as a filmmaker, and a surprisingly upbeat reminder of the importance of empathy. After all, a world full of assholes isn’t one anybody should feel at home in.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is now available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.