Netflix has given a home to content – whether it is television shows, stand-up comedy specials or films – that would otherwise not be given a second look by many studios. Even if studios like Sony Pictures Classic and A24 are giving some really offbeat and original films a chance, Netflix has given some of the most bizarre films a chance – and one such film is the hilariously named I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, a strange but still oddly wonderful little crime comedy that would go unnoticed if not for Netflix picking it up.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is about Ruth Kimke (Melanie Lynskey), a nursing assistant so utterly alone in her loneliness, without many friends in the world, and a pervading sense of loneliness that follows her around everywhere (think Travis Bickle, if he was female and not a psychopath or a taxi driver, but rather a milquetoast nursing assistant – the comparison doesn’t work, but I just wanted to go there, to be perfectly honest). Her home is burgled, and deciding this is the perfect opportunity to prove herself as a functioning human being, she becomes embroiled in a plot to get her missing property (which is really just some silverware) back – and uncovers a potentially very dark secret, all with the help of her lunatic neighbor, Tony (Elijah Wood).
Melanie Lynskey is a painfully underrated actress, and despite starting off promising, she has fallen into B-grade obscurity (how low must your career go to have a regular role on Two and a Half Men for twelve years?) – but she seems to finally be starting to accumulate interesting performances. She was best in show of the excellent horror anthology film XX this year, and with I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, she gives another committed and excellent performance. She has carved herself a place as a leading lady star in offbeat and unconventional independent films, and I have to say, she is damn good at it. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore offers her the opportunity to lead a film by herself, and while her performance does falter occasionally, for the most part it is excellent, and her Ruth Kimke is such a delightful creation, brought wonderfully to life by Lynskey’s quirky personality and dedication to creating a strange but lovable character.
If we are talking strange, let’s take a look at Elijah Wood – not his character in I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, but just his career in general. You’d think being a part of one of the highest-grossing film franchises in history would set him for life, and convince him to seek out other high-grossing and popular films. You’d be deadly wrong, as since The Lord of the Rings ended, he has been skipping from one strange project to another, playing bizarre and weird characters in some of the most absurd films I’ve ever seen – and we love him for it. In I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, Wood takes it a step further as Tony. He goes all-out in his portrayal of the highly religious, incredibly nerdy and adorably idiotic heavy metal fan who is far more heroic than one would expect. Wood brings offbeat humour and a certain detachment from reality to the role, and proves that despite being a part of the cast of arguably the biggest movies ever made, he is still a solid and interesting actor. Its great to see Wood giving a great performance, because he really is great.
I expect not many people have heard of Macon Blair, but I am almost certain that he’s going to become quite a name in the coming years. Known as an actor for his work in Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin and Green Room (in which he was most definitely best in show). His hard work as an actor in some great independent films prepared him for work behind the camera, and with I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, Blair makes his directorial debut. To be perfectly honest, this is the main reason I watched I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore – I have a good feeling about Blair.
I think Blair is going to have an amazing career, and even though I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore may not be a tremendously big film, it did manage to win the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, which has been previously won by some newcomers such as Joel and Ethan Coen (Blood Simple, Grand Jury Prize Winner 1985), Todd Haynes (Poison, Grand Jury Prize Winner 1991), Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Grand Jury Prize Winner 1995), Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (American Splendor, Grand Jury Prize Winner 2003), Shane Carruth (Primer, Grand Jury Prize Winner 2004), Ira Sachs (Forty Shades of Blue, Grand Jury Prize Winner 2005), Lee Daniels (Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire, Grand Jury Prize 2009) and Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Grand Jury Prize 2013), along with two very recent Academy Award-winning auteurs, Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, Grand Jury Prize 2014) and Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me, Grand Jury Prize Winner 2000). I don’t mean to just list off names and films, but it just shows that if Blair gets the opportunity, he will be able to use the visibility from this award and film to go onto bigger things. I sincerely hope for the best, and wish him the best success – and I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is an explosive debut.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is actually quite a complex film, as it tackles various important themes, such as that of loneliness and the role of gender relations in some way. It is a strange little film, but it also has layers and some truly fascinating insight into the human condition, and through Blair’s excellent character development, we care about our protagonists and absolutely despise the antagonists, but for a good reason – they are developed, through the story, into complicated and fully-realized characters, and even if the third act is somewhat convoluted, it is still incredibly effective and works very well in the confusing and absurd context of I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore.
I know it is tempting to watch much bigger films, especially when in the comfort of your own home – but I’ll give you a suggestion, go ahead and give I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore a try. It may not be to your tastes, and you might outright hate it – but for every ten people to watch it and feel either hatred or indifference, there is someone who will love it and realize that there is a place for his or her stories in independent cinema, and it will motivate them to pick up a camera and get started. Its how all the people who have made successes of themselves started, and I am pretty sure Macon Blair’s excellent debut will help a few people, if not many, people realize their dream and actually contribute to the wonderful world of independent film, and if you’re lucky, a popular distributor like Netflix will help get your story out there. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is wonderful, and I expect it to become at least a cult classic.