Do you want to be an active or passive member of society? is the question at the heart of Macon Blair’s directorial debut, I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore, which is as melancholic as it is bloody. For Melanie Lynskey’s Ruth, she is the latter. She has popular novels spoiled for her and she has dogs shit on her lawn. When she gets burgled, that’s the last straw and she decides to do something about it, partly due to the ineptitude of the police. So her and her newly formed acquaintance Tony (Elijah Wood, on fine form) decide to find the culprits - with bloody and hilarious consequences.
Almost immediately the similarities between I Don’t Feel at Home and Macon Blair’s brilliant, slicked-back starring feature Blue Ruin appear. But I Don’t Feel at Home has extraordinary qualities. Firstly, it is outrageously funny at times. It is as awkward and uncomfortable as Ruth herself. Most of this comes from Elijah Wood’s Tony, who is both absurd and eccentric in equal measures. It is his kookiness that makes the film tick. Slightly off-kilter is an understatement and I Don’t Feel at Home has that in abundance. So much so that you never know where it’s going to go and what’s going to happen. It’s quality is in its inconsistencies.
As much as it is silly and laugh out loud inducing, however, it’s actually profoundly sad and this is encapsulated in Lynskey’s remarkably refined performance. From her utterances “but everyone is being an asshole” to her ferociously vomiting at the sight of a gruesome gunfight shows she’s not only uncomfortable in this world but she’s uncomfortable in her own body which is desperately sad. As accidental heroes go, she’s one of the best I’ve seen in a long while. Macon Blair has created an interesting, intellectual and most importantly, relatable heroes in Ruth and Tony and they’re a pleasure to watch.
Blair’s directing, too, has clearly been inspired by Saulnier’s efforts on Blue Ruin and Green Room. In fact, I Don’t Feel at Home could rival it for the amount of blood shed. The film is ghastly at times, but also a heck of a lot of fun. Yet it is always grounded in realism. Characters struggle to fire guns, these are only as dangerous as the weapons they are holding. And there’s a lot of them. Firearms, plaster of paris, vans, rocks, snakes. Most of the fun comes from the spontaneity of the smoothly executed action scenes.
I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore is as brutal as it is macabre. For every bit of bloodshed, there’s a poignant moment. It could do with better developed villains with superior validation for their actions and it doesn’t quite have the tautness and tension of its contempories, but it’s too much fun to take notice. From Tony’s loneliness to Ruth’s depression it shouldn’t be as fun as it is, but boy is it.