I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE Is a Riotous Thriller with a Humane Heart (Sundance Review)

The world dreamt up by Macon Blair for his directorial debut seems bound to one golden rule: every turn of events, be it a simple trip to the grocery store or an ill-conceived robbery of a thug-laden pawn shop, will result in the cruelest punchline that logic will permit. The plotline of Blair’s i don’t feel at home in this world anymore., which sees an ordinary woman take the law into her own hands when her home is burglarized, is hardly wanting for opportunities to send given circumstances careening into the macabre. What makes the film serve as more than just an exercise of Murphy’s Law is the humanity at its heart—namely, Melanie Lynskey.

Whether she’s convulsing through a dead-end conversation with an unsympathetic police officer or trading blank glares with the night sky, Lynskey communicates an air of relatability that seems to evade so many actors of her repute. All the more impressive is that she manages such sincerity at the center of Blair’s madcap comedy of errors. Driving Lynskey’s depressed everywoman Ruth isn’t the zeal for revenge, but instead a consumptive frustration with the inclinations and priorities of her fellow man. Though beyond even what you’d call the reasonable extreme, the bleak places to which her frustration takes Ruth never stray entirely from that relatability—probably the most terrifying element in a movie filled with gunfire, brutal beatings, and the occasional throwing star.

In truth, Blair doesn’t play such mayhem for terror, but instead for invigorated gasps and maniacally dark laughs. As Ruth barrels further and further into the criminal underworld of her sleepy suburban neighborhood, she’s faced with one weirdo scenario after another, each affording her another oddball against which to play the full range of befuddled, disgusted, and mystified. Her most consistent foil is her goober of a neighbor Tony ( Elijah Wood), who offers the justice-driven Ruth recently whatever services he has deluded himself into believing he has at his disposal. In stark contrast to Lynskey’s naturalism, Wood renders Tony a living cartoon character, mining the wealth of his humor from the glass plane separating him from the rest of the breathing world.

Lynskey and Wood form an adept pair of comic foils, not quite in step but decidedly all one another has as they bounce between face-offs with i don’t feel at home in this world anymore.’s collective of nogoodniks as played by David Yow, Devon Graye, and a shark-eyed Jane Levy. However, the all-important third ingredient to their dynamic—fourth if you count Tony’s adorable dog—is the chaos. Between the more explosive of Ruth and Tony’s outings, the film tends to dip in intrigue. A necessity, perhaps, in the interest of staving off the anxiety attacks reaped by the marriage of Ruth’s inflating existential crisis and the Blair universe’s penchant for treachery. Though in truth, i don’t feel at home alleviates these tensions best not with calm but with its blackest, wiliest comic beats.

Those approaching Blair’s first directorial effort as fans of his acting will find something a good deal kookier than the likes of Blue Ruin or Green Room, though not whatsoever out of step with the sinister character of filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier’s compositions. Though the slapstick nature of i don’t feel at home’s cosmic imbalance may result in a movie a few leagues less grim than the mentioned projects, it on the other hand makes some of the more gruesome choices a bit easier to handle. (Read: This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for a few shrieks and cringes.) And just as horror is never absent of humor (and vice versa), neither one is ever absent of humanity. No matter how wacky things get in Blair’s world, we can thank Lynskey, draped in a drab sweater and a furrowed brow, for turning it into a world not all that far from our own… for better or for worse.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Images: Netflix

Michael Arbeiter is the East Coast Editor of Nerdist. Find him on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter.

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