Last month at the Sundance Film Festival, Macon Blair’s directorial debut I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for Drama, the festival’s top honor. It was a surprise for many but not to those who have followed Blair’s career, especially his work with director Jeremy Saulnier, including 2014’s BLUE RUIN and last year’s heavily-lauded thriller GREEN ROOM. With I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE, Blair offers audiences a hodgepodge of genres?—?comedy, drama, thriller and a touch of horror?—?to create his own unique offering, at once heartwarming as it is terrifying, that is unmissable.
I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE follows a young nurse, Ruth (Melanie Lynskey), who embarks on a vigilante search for justice after her house is burglarized and the police offer her little help in tracking down the perpetrators. Ruth teams up with her martial arts loving neighbor, Tony (a superb and quirky Elijah Wood), to help her track down her stolen goods, which include her grandmother’s silverware. But as the two grow closer, recognizing a shared loneliness, they realize that they are on the tail of something both dangerous and unpredictable.
According to Blair, the idea was inspired by a real-life burglary that occurred in his New York City apartment, where thieves took his wife’s laptop and his grandfather’s antique binoculars. Much like Ruth, Blair was surprised by the nonchalant attitude of police who implied there wasn’t much to be done outside of filing a report. But for Blair there was also a sense of violation, having something stolen that, while not monetarily valuable, was sentimentally important.
It is this sense of violation that drives Ruth on her quest to not just reclaim her stolen goods, but to track down the people responsible so they can be punished. As Ruth and Tony embark on a madcap investigation, their discoveries feels akin to a child lifting up a rock in a garden and discovering the dark, squirming creatures that live underneath. Once they have started, they are already in too deep. Still, it is an adventure that is irresistible due in part to the chemistry between Lynskey and Wood, who shine as Ruth and Tony.
Alongside her brilliant turn in “The Birthday Party” segment of XX, Lynskey’s work in I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE demonstrates her towering talent, offering audiences a rare Final Girl who defies the confinements of the trope. Lynskey’s Ruth is compelling and funny, her heartbreak is recognizable and relatable and her eventual triumph is well-deserved and satisfying. In short, she is the long-overdue feminist Final Girl?—?feminist because she is an actual, complicated human being?—?and credit is due to Blair for creating such a character.
It’s nearly impossible to describe Blair’s directorial debut without referencing Saulnier’s films, particularly BLUE RUIN. I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE’s final act captures the same sense of unstoppable horror, as brutal violence is unsparingly unleashed. But Blair, who also wrote the film, is able to make his own imprint on the formula by interlacing the piece with humor, which also allows the unapologetic violence to truly shock and land a greater impact.
It would be an easy enough sell to tell fans of GREEN ROOM that they’ll also love I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE, but that truly undercuts the magic of Blair’s debut. It is a nearly indescribable but truly unmissable film that signals the arrival of a talent that will excite and thrill audiences for years to come.
I don’t feel at home in this world anymore premieres on Netflix on February 24.