I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is best illustrated by a quote from the character Ruth (Melanie Lynskey): “The way people treat each other—they’re disgusting.”
This notion strikes Netflix’s newest movie release to its core, highlighting the fundamentally flawed human disposition with its embodiment of absolute vulgarity and repeatedly tumultuous characters and outcomes.
Directed by newcomer Macon Blair, I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore premiered on Jan. 19 at Sundance Film Festival and won the festival’s Grand Jury prize from among other American dramas. This success was followed by its mainstream release to Netflix on Feb. 24.
Blair drew inspiration for this peculiar comedy crime thriller from his own life, with exact pieces from the plot matching his personal experiences, such as a mysteriously stolen laptop. He created the film in an effort to comment on his pointed observation of people and their interactions with others—namely, that people can be terrible. And the film itself captures this overriding meaning—and torments it, and kills it altogether.
I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore centers on Ruth (Melanie Lynskey), a nursing-home aide who faces a constant succession of less than favorable situations, including her crude dying patients, shoppers who never fail to cut her off at the grocery store, and jerks at the bar who spoil the ending of the book she’s reading at the counter. These events individually may seem easily disregardable, but their staggering compilation incites a kind of crisis within Ruth, causing her to question why people are this terrible and ultimately what the point of living around these deplorables is anyway.
The epitome of her metaphysical breakdown arrives when Ruth stumbles upon evidence of a break-in within her precarious home and consequently discovers the absence of her laptop and family heirlooms. The authorities are nearly transparent in their negligence to actually investigate the case, and Ruth is left to fend for her home and overall dignity by herself.
That is, until she befriends her unconventional yet desperately benevolent neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood). While he was initially a perpetrator of obscenity toward Ruth through his dog repeatedly tainting her yard, he becomes her sole ally in the quest for justice-turned-vengeance.
An eclectic cast of characters shapes the outlandish trajectory of the story and serves as the essential foundation for its fusion of humor, thrill, and darkness. Tony’s singular rattail and equipment of ninja stars and fatal nunchucks merge with his God-revering, sensitive self to create the unsuspectingly loyal best friend and potential lover of Rose. He presents to her a flame of optimism when her existence seems most bleak, assuring her that the purpose of living is “trying to be good, trying to be better.”
This positivity melts with the presence of the film’s enemy, a group of drug-induced, self-indulging miscreants. Consisting of wretched ringleader Marshall (David Yow), corrupted former rich kid Christian (Devon Greye), and equally as debased accomplice Dez (Jane Levy), this bunch survives on the profits from a dubious consignment shop as a result of their robberies. Besides their inflaming, immediate disgust of their entrance and their despicable perishing, they also initiate a long chain of explicit violence that grounds the entire rest of the plot.
This same wicked violence is also the source of that terrorizing gut instinct that causes viewers’ stomachs to churn about halfway through, as well as the source of admonishment as Ruth slowly chips away and no character or even body part remains unbloodied. The abrupt shift from nonviolence to its grotesque extremity is what agitates viewers so fiercely that no eye can peel away from an otherwise repeatedly downtrodden series of events.
The cinematography also provokes a sense of distress, artfully utilized by Blair to capitalize on the poignant desperation of his protagonist. In one memorable shot, the camera zooms down the hall toward the suspicious noise of an intruder, inclusive first of a hanging of kitchen knives that a hand swiftly grabs and then seconds later holds erect at the bottom of the same frame. Even with a slew of comedic lines and situations, other technical moments such as these exploit trepidation and metaphorical nail biting.
I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore ultimately accomplishes its intended goal of fascinated panic and enthralling characterization. Regardless of audiences’ positive or negative reactions to its ongoings, its play on the dark truth of the human condition rings undeniably true and affirms that, really, no one should feel at home in this gruesome world anymore.
Featured Image By Netflix