Originally published on CommonSpace.
Macon Blair’s starring role in Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin has led to this, his directorial debut.
Thematically similar, yet wholly different in tone, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore follows Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) as she seeks revenge on those who burgled her home. Clearly out of her depth, she enlists the help of a bizarre neighbour (Elijah Wood) who possesses martial arts weaponry and loads of heavy metal posters.
Like Blue Ruin, this is about taking matters into your own hands even if those hands are wildly unsuited to the job. It deviates by balancing this low-key vengeance-driven narrative with humour bordering on slapstick.
Each comedic moment of absurdity shatters the realism of Ruth’s revenge – the jarring tone feels like a second-rate Edgar Wright, a director who manages to make everything mad that happens in his films make sense within those worlds without sacrificing emotion or humour.
I Don’t Feel at Home, on the other hand, expects the hunt for the burglars to emotionally engage its audience, while also taking the mick out of those leading the hunt. It misses the mark on the laugh front, but also devalues our stake in the protagonists.
Blue Ruin’s visceral premise provoked empathy and a morally ambiguous catharsis, but when it’s punctuated by silly gags, it’s easy to emotionally shut off.
Ruth’s nihilism may be her drive, tipping her over the edge when life deals her one too many bad hands. She faces sexist bureaucracy in the shape of the police, who are both quick to dismiss her and to turn to her for emotional comfort.
When the film focuses on her bleak worldview, there’s something refreshing about justifying her grassroots vigilantism by having her simply say enough is enough.
It’s not bad, but it is tonally disorientating, meaning the laughs don’t quite work and the main plot is difficult to invest in. Some interesting ideas and good work from its two main leads just about make it a worthwhile watch, but I Don’t Feel at Home aims to be a number of things and never quite reaches the heights of any of them.