“What are we doing, here in this world?”
“Trying to be good. Be better”.
“What about me? Am I good?”
As the title of this film indicates, depressed nurse Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) feel disconnected from the world she lives in. One irritating act after another pushes Ruth to her limit: people queue jumping and standing in the wrong line at the supermarket, the neighbour’s dog soiling her front garden day after day; no family alive, no friends who listen. These frustrations build up, finally deciding to do something about it when her home is ransacked and laptop and family heirloom’s stolen. When the police state they can’t help her, she enlists the help of her socially-awkward Kung Fu loving neighbour Tony (Elijah Wood) to fight back against the indecencies of the world and find her missing items. Unfortunately for Ruth, she needs more than a new friend and his nunchucks to win against the disturbingly violent people that committed the initial crime.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is much more than just a long title. Macon Blair’s directional debut and screenplay creates distinctly strange characters in a distinctly strange-but-recognisable world, whipped into a whirlwind of violent crime with a much needed dosage of comedy. Despite the abnormal circumstances and characters that make this film fun to watch, Ruth’s averageness as a human that contrasts against the strangeness of everyone else acts as a beacon of relevance and relatability, firmly established in the first fifteen minutes. As each uncivilised action weighs more and more upon Ruth’s shoulders, coupled with her disconnection from any so-called ‘friend’, her thought pattern is clear and establishes her plunging hopelessness and faith in the world.
When she tries to talk to her friend about how she doesn’t know how to cope, another interruption occurs and she is, once again, cast aside. The entire sequence is relatable, even just small moments, but the built-up weight of everything can almost be physically felt through the screen when Ruth just wants to give up, and even the sprinkle of awkward comedy (such as the repeated waiting in the ’15 or less’ queue with her two items, waiting for the person with 50 to finish) makes an immediate sympathising connection between Ruth and the audience.
The technical and stylistic techniques of this film are fitting, with shadowy shots framing Ruth as the eternally isolated being she feels she is, and the repeated use of the sun as a backlight to outline people in rays of hope and create that closeness to others that Ruth experiences on her journey. The characterisations are the stand-out though, as without these memorable personalities I wouldn’t rate this film as high as I will. I have a habit of immediately searching for personal connections between myself and the character on-screen, wanting an ounce of familiarity that will draw me into the filmic world even more. Blair’s writing of Ruth that Lynskey performs so spot on achieves this connection I wanted, with her stuttering and clearly-unsure-of-herself attitude. This adds significance to her actions as the story progresses, because it’s not just about retrieving her material things that were stolen, or fighting back against the injustices of the world’s inhabitants. It’s also about her becoming a confident person and finding her aim in life, which just so happens to occur when three crude and unhinged criminals pick the wrong house to burgle, and she reaches the end of that tether that’s been holding her back for so long.
It’s the most enjoyable character arc I’ve seen on screen for a while, and the combination of comedy and horror (when written and performed with intelligence and personality) is never not a great experience. Elijah Wood’s eccentric character Tony is a bizarre choice of side-kick for the average Ruth, but his strange quirks compliment her well, particularly up against the three equally-as-weird villains of the story. Chris (Devon Graye) is introduced to us crudely and creepily, but is overtaken by the truly grotesque figures of the film in the form of Marshall (David Yow) and Dez (Jane Levy). We get to appreciate their characters more in the second and third act, as the story explores its darker elements rather than the lighter comedy of the first act, but still containing those comedically absurd moments to stop the overall tone losing its reality – even when there’s metaphorical darkness, there is light, and sometimes that’s in the form of Elijah Wood struggling to pull his only morning star out the wall whilst everyone watches awkwardly. They are expensive, after all.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is a film that wanted to explore feelings of hopelessness and frustration that is on a completely relatable level, using the thriller aspects as a progression for the characters (mainly Ruth) to overcome the depression – not to say this whole film is entirely dedicated to the message of hope (it mainly isn’t) as for anybody appreciative of dark comedy and a bit of absurdity will enjoy this film regardless. The acting is superb with Lynskey pulling off the role alongside her co-stars with personality and comedy, making me want to watch more of her on-screen achievements. The awkwardly funny moments of this film will make you love the characters even when there’s blood shed, and the final scene will hopefully make your heart go from absolute rock-bottom to the most uplifted possible as it did for me.