Written & Directed by: Macon Blair
Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) is disenchanted with humanity. Snippets of newscasts, in the background, paint a disheartening picture of the world. And in her role as a nurse’s aide, Ruth finds herself at the bedside of a dying woman who is a hateful racist; her last words don’t bear repeating to the family.
Then, to cap it off, someone breaks into Ruth’s house, stealing her legacy from her grandmother and leaving her feeling angry and violated.
Unsatisfied with the police department’s efforts, Ruth wants to find out who broke into her house. She’s desperate for something to lift her from her sense of hopelessness and helplessness and believes that confronting the thieves might be just what she needs. She finds an unlikely ally in her nerdy neighbor, Tony (Elijah Wood), who stumbles into her life when he lets his dog take a crap in Ruth’s yard. (Frodo! For shame!)
At this point, I was well on my way to being in love with this movie. Ruth’s discouragement over the divisiveness in our society and the mean-spiritedness of people captures the zeitgeist of our time, and the film is populated by the quirky, flawed characters I so thoroughly enjoy.
Then it segues into an off-beat crime drama, introducing a motley assortment of meth-heads, thieves, and thugs, including a criminal who defiles a family’s bathroom before stealing their jewelry and miscreants with spectacularly colorful nicknames like “Giggles” and “Donkey Dick.” There are some wonderfully darkly humorous scenes with a Tarantinoesque vibe.
On the other hand, I felt like there were two stories here — the quirky character-driven indie film and the darkly humorous crime flick — and they didn’t fit together seamlessly. The juxtaposition of these two stories just felt odd, somehow.
And Ruth’s character arc didn’t work for me. I love the idea of taking a flawed, off-beat character who’s on the verge of going over the edge and putting her in a strange, seedy underworld. And she doesn’t need to have some sort of glorious epiphany — character arcs can be very subtle. But the facets of Ruth that emerge in this story didn’t make sense to me.
I could easily imagine her slipping into a life of crime and continuing to be more aggressive. But there’s one point, when she’s on a mission to retrieve Grandma Sally’s stolen silver, where it jumps the shark for me. Ruth does something heinous and, throughout the rest of the movie, she appears to have no reaction to it. This seems grossly out of character. OK — it happened — but shouldn’t she have some feelings about it, even if they’re delayed? Shouldn’t it matter? And at the end of the film, she seems to feel a sense of resolution or empowerment, that — given everything that has happened — doesn’t feel earned.
I am a huge fan of Macon Blair as an actor (Blue Ruin, Green Room). And despite its flaws, I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore clearly demonstrated that he has the potential to be a great writer and director. His tremendous talent as a storyteller shines here. The character are well-crafted, the movie is well-cast, and the performances — especially by Melanie Lynskey — are wonderful.
For the most part, this movie is solidly entertaining, and I’m impressed with Blair’s gift for blurring the line between light and dark and for capturing the fears and frustrations that are bubbling over in our society in an interesting way. While this movie wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for, I do recommend it — and I can’t wait to see what Macon Blair does next.