• Adam Johnson

"I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore" Is Quirky, Dark, and Original

People suck.

At least it can appear that way at times. A few weeks ago, my mom and I were almost crushed on I-4 when a U-Haul trailer crossed into our lane without acknowledging our presence. I saw a guy impersonate a YouTube channel just yesterday promising a giveaway of different devices if people followed him, even though he had none of that. All these nuisances and annoyances that donate to the long-debated Problem of Evil. And that's where Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winner I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore begins, with a montage of nursing assistant Ruth (Melanie Lynskey, Two and a Half Men, Coyote Ugly) running into the world's small evils: the people in the grocery store who leave things on the ground or cut you in the line; the guy who spoils the end of the book for you; the folks who leave their dog's poop in your yard; and even the ornery old woman who has hate in her heart till her last dying breath. "Everyone's an asshole," Ruth concludes.

I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore is Macon Blair (Green Room)'s directorial debut. After Ruth, disillusioned by the world, becomes victim to a burglary and finds the police ineffective and uncaring to her situation, she takes it upon herself to retrieve her laptop and stolen silverware and firmly stick it to the people her invaded her house, which is really what she's most peeved about. She teams up with her eccentric neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood, The Lord of the Rings) on a vigilante mission, which devolves into a very bloody affair.

I should be upfront. This kind of film is not for everyone. The film plays as a quirky dark comedy for most of its run, with Wood and Lynskey establishing a subtle comic rapport early on. For example, the previously mentioned opening montage is funny in its relatability, and Blair adds some extra comic timing to more than a few sequences with his edits. That said, when the film gets violent, it does so in a very startling way that can be off-putting. In the third act, criminals practically blow a man's hand off, heralding an equally tense and violent sequence, but not before Ruth gets in the way of the shotgun, saying, "I'm not letting you shoot anyone," leaving a beat for everyone to pan to a guy who's bleeding out from earlier before clarifying, "Anyone...anyone else." If that's the kind of movie you can stand, you'll feel right at home with this.

For me, I really appreciated the craft of the film. It is well directed, which is admirable since this is Blair's first go-around in that field. The acting is really fantastic throughout. Elijah Wood definitely emphasizes his character's strangeness, but as the film goes on, he becomes one of the most reasonable characters in the film. Part of that is due to the excellent writing, but Wood smartly doesn't make a shtick out of his character and plays him relatively believable despite the oddity of the events. There are more than a few characters in the film for whom I could think of someone similar in my personal life. Still, the film rides a fine line with the morality of its characters, as all but a few are arguably bad people arguing that other people are worse. It's Ruth's vigilante sense of justice that makes things worse than they need to be: even though we root for her to achieve her goals, there comes a point where you feel yourself pulling back. In the fashion of noir, there is no black and white--only grey. And as the film rides a fine line with the morality, it rides a fine line with comedy and drama, and realism and absurdity. I think it rode it well, entertaining me while provoking questions without being a predictable noir or a too-dark neo-noir.

One notable thing I feel is worth mentioning is that the film is oddly spiritual. In a way, the film is a story of Ruth coming to grips with the fact a world free of evil and "assholes" is not coming here anytime soon, so maybe it's elsewhere. Though Tony exhibits some Eastern philosophical tendencies early on, he does pray before helping Ruth in her attempt to retrieve her laptop early on. "You pray?" Ruth asks him. "You ask for help, I ask for help. That's the only way things get done," he says. Some scenes take place in, I presume, a Unitarian Universalist church, and though their message isn't verbalized, the scenes are shown unironically and earnestly as a significant part of characterization. In the final moments, The Carter Family's gospel song, "Can't Feel At Home in This World Anymore," plays, echoing a spiritual, more Christian sentiment. I'm not saying this a good thing or a bad thing, but I think it's interesting that Macon Blair added an earnest spiritual dimension to the crazy film.

All in all, I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore is an odd but commendably original film that is well-executed in all regards and raises questions about morality, vigilantism, and justice. It rides a fine line between funny (I had some good laughs throughout the film) and serious that I think it straddles pretty well. Blair definitely demonstrates he knows how to direct a darn good movie. It's a difficult film to give a rating, since it does its job quite well and its decisions are very conscious and all towards the film's identity (i.e. the strong violence is meant to complement the realistic world it sets up), but it was occasionally off-putting to me. In the end, I'll give it 4 out of 5 stars. If you want a dark comedy crime film that is well-executed and completely original, definitely make an effort to watch this the next time you log into Netflix. It's just not for everyone, and that's okay.

So what about you? What did you think of this film, if you've seen it? If not, what's your favorite Netflix Original Movie or Show? Whatever you have to say about me or the movies, comment below!

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