I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017) ☆☆☆(3/4): What happens to Ruth

Netflix film “I Don’t Feel at Home This World Anymore” is a little dark comedy which becomes more absurd and violent than expected as bouncing from one point to another along with its two main characters. We are tickled at times as observing how they try to deal with a situation which turns out to be way over their heads, and then we also come to cringe a lot as how their situation becomes messier along the story.

Melanie Lynskey plays Ruth Kimke, a nursing assistant who has been quite depressed and frustrated about how things are usually bad around her. At one point early in the film, Ruth tries to give some comfort to a dying old lady on her deathbed, but this old lady only says nasty words before eventually succumbing to death, and Ruth is certainly embarrassed when the surviving family members of this old lady later ask about her last words.

Quite unhappy and depressed as usual, Ruth returns to her house where she has lived alone, and then she belatedly discovers that somebody broke into the house and then stole several valuable stuffs including her laptop computer and the silverware set from her grandmother. Of course, she instantly calls the police, and her house is subsequently investigated as a crime scene, but the cop assigned to her case does not look that particularly enthusiastic about helping her, and that makes her more frustrated than before.

Eventually, Ruth decides to take care of the matter for herself. She attempts to find any clue and witness from here and there around the neighborhood, and that is how she comes across Tony (Elijah Wood) again, who previously had a rather awkward encounter with her due to a minor matter involved with dog excrement. Because he looks like someone who may help her private investigation, Ruth later calls for his help when she happens to find the exact location of her stolen laptop computer, and he gladly joins her private investigation just because he has been angry and frustrated as much as she has been.

Of course, both Ruth and Tony turn out to pretty clumsy as facing one trouble after another during their little pursuit of justice, and we accordingly get a series of vicious but funny moments to be savored. While they manage to retrieve that stolen laptop computer in the end, Ruth still needs to locate where her grandmother’s silverware set is, and that consequently leads her and Tony into a certain shady spot near their neighborhood. Understandably quite nervous, both of them try to be as careful as possible, but there inevitably comes a point where our heroine resorts to a bit of violence, and then we get another naughty laugh as a result.

Meanwhile, the screenplay by director/writer Macon Blair, who has been known for his excellent performances in several notable films including Jeremy Saulnier’s “Blue Ruin” (2013), also shows what is going on among the very criminals who broke into Ruth’s house, and we are amused again as observing how they are as pathetic as Ruth and Tony. During one certain scene, they try to deal with some dangerous thug, but it is apparent from the beginning that they are no match for this thug at all, and one of them consequently gets a painful lesson.

It is not much of a spoiler to tell you that these criminals and our two main characters will fatefully converge at some narrative point later in the story, but the movie keeps engaging us as deftly balancing itself between comedy and thriller. In case of an absurd scene where Ruth and Tony are trying to get more clues from a certain character who happens to be quite drunk, it later catches us off guard with an unexpected development, and the mood becomes more absurd as Ruth and Tony are reminded again of how they have been out of depth from the beginning.

During the eventual finale, the movie becomes more intense and violent as things get out of control for Ruth and Tony as well as some other substantial characters in the story, but the movie does not lose any of its sense of black humor even during this part, and Blair and his crew members did a good job of delivering laughs and shocks alternatively. While we are horrified along with Tony and Ruth, we also chuckle at times as discerning the sheer absurdity of their increasingly chaotic circumstance, and the movie even throws a bit of sentimentality into that around the end of the story.

As the mismatched comic duo in the film, Lynskey and her co-star Elijah Wood effortlessly interact with each other on the screen. While Lynskey ably handles her character’s neurotic sides for good laughs, Wood is equally good as a guy as troubled as his accidental partner, and they are also supported well by a number of colorful supporting performers including Devon Graye, David Yow, Jane Levy, Robert Longstreet, Christine Woods, and Gary Anthony Williams, who has a small amusing scene where his detective character happens to have a sort of mental breakdown in front of Ruth.

In conclusion, “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore” is a modest but commendable feature film debut by Blair, who incidentally received the Grand Jury Prize when the movie had a premiere at the Sundance Film Festival early in 2017. At present, he is making the reboot of “The Toxic Avenger” (1984), and, considering his achievement in “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore”, I think I can have some expectation on his next film.

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