I Just Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore (2017)
Written & Directed by Macon Blair
Ruth is a woman who feels that the world around her is becoming crueler and more self-centered. It starts on a day where an acidic racist patient dies, a neighbor’s dog continually uses her yard as a bathroom, and she returns from work to find her house burglarized. They’ve taken prescription meds, a laptop, and her grandmother’s silverware set. The police seem unconcerned, and it appears Ruth may have left her own backdoor unlocked. This is the breaking point, and she seeks out an unlikely alliance with her neighbor, Tony. Together they go on a vigilante mission to regain her stolen property and confront the people behind the robbery.
Melanie Lynskey (Ruth) is the absolute shining star of the film. She is a familiar face to audiences, first breaking through in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures and holding a supporting part on the sitcom Two and a Half Men. That work plus numerous film supporting roles has kept her a peripheral figure in the entertainment industry. “Home” serves as a platform for her to remind us of the strength she exhibited two decades ago in Heavenly Creatures. Lynskey is very good at playing an unlikely protagonist who is incredibly flawed in her reasoning. Much like we all do, when faced with a day full of negative interactions and personal defeats, our inner misanthrope comes alive. The film does a beautiful job of continually confirming and upending Ruth’s assumptions about her fellow man, and this is where the film comes alive as a comedy. If everyone lived up to the negative image, Ruth perceived we’d have a movie much more like a typical Hollywood revenge flick.
Tony is an excellent example of someone Ruth assumes she understands and then spends the rest of the film re-evaluating. Elijah Wood plays Tony as a figure hovering in a space between head down meekness and nunchuck wielding heavy metal rage. It’s actually an incredibly realistic character, as I’ve known people who might be considered “metalheads” and their affinity to the music was often due to a personal sense of powerlessness against the external. Through Ruth, he gets an opportunity to enforce his own perception of justice. Like Ruth, I made assumptions about where the plot might take Tony and was surprised that his story does not play like I expected.
The film is the design of Macon Blair, an actor familiar to viewers of Blue Ruin and Green Room. Blair is definitely working off the style of his former director Jeremy Saulnier with this picture. The verdant rural low-income surroundings look like they a plucked right out of many scenes in Blue Ruin. However, Blair has woven a Coen Brothers sense of humor through the proceedings, cutting through the horrific tension of Saulnier’s work. And while this is a comedy, it is a dark one, featuring violence on par with the films above. A faulty shotgun plays a particularly nasty part in one set piece, a seemingly feeble old junk dealer delivers a gruesome punishment in another scene.
My most significant criticism of the film is its lack of developing a coherent theme. While I don’t want the picture to be overt in what it is trying to say about Ruth and her thesis statement on humanity, it becomes increasingly harder to determine the film’s perceptions of her. The comedy does get in the way of this I believe, cutting through the tension that might otherwise speak to the overall message of the movie. That said, Home is still an energetic debut from a writer-director who has learned well as an actor and brings strong, complex performances out of his actors.