A detective drama like no other, I don’t feel at home in this world anymore is a hilarious meditation on society and its holes. Written and directed by green room actor Macon Blair in his directorial debut, he follows shy nurse Ruth (Melanie Lynskey), who has had enough of the world. The film begins with Ruth on her way to work at a second rate hospital. sitting in traffic, she sighs as the vehicle in front of her revs its engine, pumping black fumes from its exhaust. At work, a BLM protest is shown on television in the bedroom of a dying patient who is a rabid racist: his parting words are a rant against black Americans.
As this happens, Ruth stands in front of a pain management scale. If it was six before (moderate pain), it is ten at the end of the day. As Jason Newman’s “Go Away (To Paradise)” continues to play in the background, Ruth’s torture continues outside of work: in the parking lot, where an impatient driver won’t let her through; at the grocery store, where people behave selfishly; in the bar, where a man (Blair) ruins the book she is reading; and at home, where someone left their dog to shit in their garden (ironically, right in front of their handmade no-poo sign).
The straw that breaks the camel’s back for Ruth, however, is finding out she’s been robbed. And even worse, discovering that among his laptop and other expensive possessions, they stole his late grandmother’s silver spoon. When the cops refuse to help Ruth — going so far as to blame Ruth herself for leaving her door unlocked — she takes matters into her own hands, and that’s where Elijah Wood’s Tony comes in.
The audience is first introduced to Tony as Ruth’s eccentric neighbor who is responsible for letting her dog, Kevin, get dirty in her yard. He is the first person Ruth turns on and the first to show remorse for his actions, apologizing after Ruth throws Kevin’s feces at him. Tony makes a reappearance when Ruth needs help recovering her stolen laptop and enlists her as an accomplice. Socially awkward and sensitive (he goes irrationally mad after learning that Ruth has been robbed), Tony is an unlikely vigilante. With his rattail hair, uneven beard and sleeveless shirts he certainly doesn’t look the part, but with nunchucks in hand he’s ready to give it a try.
On their first mission to get the laptop, Tony uses his martial arts skills to take down a harmless idiot and break into the thieves’ house. Inside, he causes further unnecessary mayhem with a morning star, a shuriken, and an explosive, as the supposed thieves stare at him in bewilderment. It turns out that this confused group of 20-somethings weren’t the ones who robbed Ruth, but some poor bastards who decided to do some second-hand shopping.
The rest of the film sees Ruth and Tony hunt down the real criminals, played brilliantly by Devon Graye, Jane Levy and David Yow. Christian (Graye), the most sadistic of the pack, is an Eminem-looking blonde thug who breaks into people’s homes in plain sight and empties into their toilet tanks; Dez (Levy) is a tattooed stoner; and Marshall (Yow), an American Del Boy, is the oldest crook controlling them. Other bright characters include William (Gary Anthony Williams), Detective Ruth constantly pestering to do her job; Chris Senior (Robert Longstreet), Christian’s arrogant wealthy father; and Meredith (Christine Woods), his fed up trophy wife. All of them give cause for laughter, but none as much as Ruth and Tony.
Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood are hilarious as the world’s worst vigilante duo. With Lynskey, it’s all in the facial expressions; with Wood, it’s in everything from his goofy appearance to how Tony asserts himself in dangerous situations he has no business being in. Lynskey is known for playing quiet, soft-spoken characters, and for the first half of the film at least, Ruth fits the bill. In the second half, however, Lynskey goes against type, just as Ruth goes against her ways. Watching her transform from an overly polite and passive citizen into a vengeful woman is incredibly satisfying and fun.
Wood goes even further against type than Tony. Known for the the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Wood also starred primarily in horror, sci-fi, and thriller films. In 2014 he starred in the comedy horror flop cooties, about a deadly virus that turns school children into bloodthirsty zombies. His other horror comedy, come see daddyreleased two years later I don’t feel at home in this world anymorewas better received, but is not a competitor to the latter.
I don’t feel at home won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Awards ceremony and is currently rated 6.9 on IMDb, with a fairer score of 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. With its underlying themes of selfishness, hostility, and general crummy behavior, it’s hard to believe the movie was made before the pandemic, before stockpiling and fighting over toilet paper was a thing. But that just proves Ruth’s point: “The way people treat each other – they’re disgusting” (and always have been). Fortunately, I don’t feel at home in this world anymore chooses to end on a more positive note: people may suck, but you’ll always find eccentrics in your corner.
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