Led by the fantastic duo of Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood, this black crime comedy is unique and riveting.
As the first major film festival of the year, Sundance acts as an excellent pre-cursor and taster for what is to come in the year ahead for independent cinema. Over the years, the Robert Redford-chaired event has provided a platform for a number of excellent films including Little Miss Sunshine, Resevoir Dogs and recent two-time Oscar-winning Manchester by the Sea. But it is the Grand Jury prize that is perhaps the most coveted accolade of the festival, with recent winners including Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Whiplash, so what a coup it was for Netflix when they managed to snap up the distribution rights for this year’s recipient I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore.
The film centres around the story of Ruth (Melanie Lynskey), a depressed assistant nurse who finds her life taking a different turn when her home is burglarized and she teams up with her oddball neighbour Tony (Elijah Wood) to track down the culprits. Playing out like a modern-day suburban Fargo, it’s a twisting and turning black comedy with a real crime thriller kick for that extra edge, writer/director Macon Blair gets everything he can out of the simplistic premise, interesting mix of tones and quirky characters.
Lynskey is a fantastic lead, she exhibits real heart and emotion in Ruth, as well as a new-found confidence and spunkiness as she undertakes her mission. Alongside her, Wood fully commits to the eccentric nature of his character providing an excellent foil and partner to Lynskey, the two have great on-screen chemistry. Whether it be amidst the humour, the crime or the thrills, the pair are always on top form. Blair has a fantastic understanding of when and how to execute the tonal shifts, be they in particular scenes or as a wider development throughout the film, meaning that there’s hardly a moment of disinterest or boredom, this may only be Blair’s directorial debut but he displays all the traits of a natural-born filmmaker. It’s also a sharply written piece from a dialogue perspective as well as this tonal and story control on Blair’s part; there are several excellent one liners and idiosyncratic utterances that spice up what could, in lesser hand, just be passed off as another quirky indie caper.
But one of I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore‘s most successful features is its unique identity. Whilst it may be akin to the aforementioned Fargo from a story and genre view-point, it still feels very fresh and totally different to what has come before it. In part this is down to Blair’s writing and direction, but the film also has a wonderful use of sound; it is both well-edited and mixed, and songs will fade in and out of the film’s score and into its world, and moments of tension are dialled up and enhanced through the use of little sounds. These are small details that could easily pass under one’s radar, but in this instance they are executed masterfully and to great effect. The lead characters are also written so richly and brought to life so effectively with unique quirks and traits that make them all the more likeable and engaging. Blair only has 90 minutes with which to do this which makes it that much more impressive.
Overall I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is everything you could want from a quirky crime comedy whilst still managing to be unique and capture its own identity and persona. As a directorial debut, it’s a big step forward for Blair into what is sure to be a rich career and for his actors it’s an excellent showcase of their dramatic and comedic chops.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017), directed by Macon Blair, is available to stream via Netflix. Certificate 15.