If you’ve ever been the victim of a burglary, you’re familiar with the feelings of violation and helplessness that sink in after the fact. Insecurities can become magnified, especially if the police are of little help.
But imagine taking matters into your own hands, diligently reclaiming what you’ve lost physically and emotionally in spite of the risks. Writer-Director Macon Blair takes a dryly comedic, yet poignantly realistic look at 21st century vigilantism with his directorial debut I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore.
The film follows lonely Ruth Kimke (Melanie Lynskey), a depressed nursing assistant who finds it easier to be withdrawn than deal with the everyday impudence of others. That is until she comes home to find her laptop and grandmother’s silver missing. After an initial existential crisis, she decides to sleuth around and question her neighbors.
Just as Ruth starts to feel hopeless, she finds solidarity with her neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood), an intense martial arts enthusiast, but sincere and religious guy who believes the burglary “affects all of us.” The duo slowly find themselves entangled in a web of crime and coincidence, which only reaffirms what Ruth really wants: ”For people not to be assholes.”
At the heart of this film is the philosophical concept of the Absurd: a confrontation between our demand that things ‘happen for a reason’ and an indifferent universe.
As the film begins, Ruth has essentially resigned herself to the fact that life is absurd; she sees the absurdities that surround us in everyday life and chooses to deal with it by taking antidepressants and keeping to herself. The burglary forces her to face the absurd and (in the words of Philosopher Alfred Camus) revolt: accepting the absurdity, but not passively giving into it.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is characterized by Melanie Lynskey’s strong performance as a beer-swilling, female everyman who transforms into a confident, confrontational individual. The film also capitalizes on an established, quirky chemistry between Lynskey and Elijah Wood (the two previously costarred in the underrated animated miniseries Over the Garden Wall), without putting too much focus on a romantic subplot.
The film is rife with coincidence, accidents, and irony which often come as a surprise, even to the main characters- making it a real treat for the viewer. Director Macon Blair shows a proclivity for stylish Steadicam shots and effective uses of montage which help drive home the idea of everyday absurdities.
The film is also marked by a terrific soundtrack which really captures Ruth’s moods and helps to provide an extra commentary on the deeper themes present.
When I first saw the title and poster for this film on Netflix, I didn’t quite know what to make of it. I thought it looked like a post-apocalyptic/Mad Max style drama.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore turns out to be a prescient amalgamation of genres- from deadpan comedy, to crime thriller, to philosophical fiction- providing a surprisingly balanced mix of tense action and thought-provoking musings about modern living.
If, like me, you get caught in the Netflix browsing loop- stuck looking for a decent comedy or action movie that doesn’t run 2 hours- I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore provides a succinct, quality genre blend (with some deeper themes), that definitely makes it worth the watch.