EXISTENTIAL DESPAIR

Everyone Is an A**hole in Netflix’s New Thriller ‘I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore’

Misery and silliness abound in the excellent, Sundance-winner black comedy ‘I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore,’ about a woman fed up with a world full of a**holes.

Allyson Riggs

Everything is awful in I don’t feel at home in this world anymore., and nursing assistant Ruth Kimke (Melanie Lynskey) is mad as hell about it. She keeps finding dog crap on her front lawn. She has to listen to one of her patients respond to a TV news report about race riots with “Keep your gigantic monkey dick out of my good pussy” before immediately croaking – and is then asked to deal with the deceased woman’s son asking about his mom’s final words. Even when she meets a cheery guy at a bar (Macon Blair) who shares a fondness for the fantasy novels she’s reading, he ends their impromptu chat by spoiling a key plot point. It’s no wonder that, in the film’s first images, she’s morosely staring upwards at the sky, pondering whether there’s any point to all of this ever-present nastiness.

That question hovers over the opening moments of Netflix’s latest original feature, which debuted earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, and which was written and directed (in his behind-the-camera debut) by Blair, previously best known for his performances in Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin and Green Room. It certainly becomes an all-consuming hang-up for single Ruth after she returns home one day to find that her modest home has been burglarized, and that the thieves have snatched her antidepressants, laptop, and grandmother’s silverware. Not that the cops care, given that detective Bendix (Gary Anthony Williams) deduces that Ruth left her door unlocked – making this, in his eyes, partly her fault, And anyway, who ever recovers such stolen items?

As it turns out, Ruth does, in a tale that Blair expertly pitches as a soulful yet droll (and bloody!) black comedy about existential despair, and the measures one woman takes to combat it. From its mixture of misery and silliness, to its Saulnier-esque evocation of rundown American grit, grime and crime, I don’t feel at home in this world anymore. is (regardless of its unwieldy title) a superior genre effort, one that paints characters, settings and situations with sharp, authentic brushstrokes, and uses ridiculousness to augment tension. That, and it also features a capital-G Great lead performance from Lynskey, here radiating world-weariness and righteous anger to hilarious and heartbreaking affect – and, in the process, reconfirming her status as one of indie cinema’s brightest stars.

Decked out in a worn-out baseball jersey and, later, an even more well-worn grey zip-up hoodie, and with a beer bottle routinely in her hand, Ruth reacts to the break-in first by expressing her feelings of violation…to her adolescent niece (Michelle Moreno) at bedtime. When that doesn’t go over so well – and her brother-in-law (Matt Orduna) silently expresses exasperation at her staying the night – Ruth goes to her neighbors, who are also of little help. Consequently, she turns to Tony (Elijah Wood), a rat-tailed, Saxon-loving loner whom she’d previously accosted in the street for letting his dog doo-doo on her lawn. As embodied by an amusingly off-kilter Wood, Tony is an outright weirdo beardo. But when, upon hearing about her victimization, he impulsively slams his nunchakus on a table and screams “That makes me so furious!”, Ruth realizes that – though she’s a little bit country, and he’s a little bit heavy metal – Tony is her fated sidekick, another solitary soul who understands that, as she puts it, “everyone is an asshole. Yes. And dildos. Fuckfaces.”

So begins I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.’s story proper, which follows Ruth and Tony as they become modern-day Nancy Drews, she with the smarts and courage, and he with the morning star and shuriken (unconventional weaponry being one of his specialties). Before long, Ruth is making a plaster mold of the perpetrator’s footprint (found in her backyard), and using a GPS tracking service to find her laptop. That discovery sends them next to a consignment salvage yard where they not only make further recoveries, but also have their initial run-in with the trio behind the burglary: a skuzzy ex-con (David Yow), his face-tattooed young partner (Jane Levy), and a bleach-blonde deviant named Christian (Devon Graye) who’s introduced defecating in a toilet’s tank during a house party that he’s crashed in order to steal some jewelry. Grinning at themselves in the mirror like psychos, and living out in the woods and in their van like deviants, they’re three more creeps in a universe seemingly overrun by them.

Ruth and Tony’s ensuing odyssey involves roundhouse kicks to the head, broken fingers, shootouts, hidden safes, bored housewives, crazy security agents, and detective Bendix chastising Ruth for her sleuthing before breaking down over his ongoing divorce. It’s a bonkers stew of brutality, intrigue and off-the-wall absurdity, and Blair cooks it up with aplomb, exhibiting (in collaboration with editor Tomas Vengris and cinematographer Larkin Seiple) keen comedic timing and a knack for suspenseful plotting. He also displays a deft visual sense, as with an early scene in Ruth’s living room in which the camera pans away from the character and down her hallway, at which point one spies, in the corner of the frame, her hand grabbing a knife from a kitchen wall rack – a beautifully composed shot that suggests (smartly, for a thriller) that unseen movement, and action, is taking place off-screen.

Taking its title from Fern Jones’ ballad “This World is Not My Home” (heard on the soundtrack, which also includes a cut from Green Room’s fictional punk rock band The Ain’t Rights), I don’t feel at home in this world anymore. climaxes in chaotic violence. However, be it in uproarious wide-eyed reaction shots, or in moments of introspection about the ostensible futility of life, Lynskey delivers a charming, captivating turn that roots the proceedings in everyday feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness, frustration and fury. At the end of her journey, Ruth’s sister Angie (Lee Eddy) comforts her with, “We have all the time in the world.” It’s a cliché that Ruth rightly rejects, because as she’s learned, and as writer/director Blair’s film recognizes, life is short, and it’s thus crucial to cherish the brief time we have with the few people who aren’t assholes. And, one might add, with the rare movies that – by being entertaining, exciting and insightful about our screwy human condition – help make the world a better place. Like this one.