Self-made justice (I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore movie review)

Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood appear in I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore by Macon Blair, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Allyson Riggs.

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore”, directed by Macon Blair, is a black comedy in which the presented reality reminds of an unlawful, disorganised place that seems to be a reverse of normal order – a space in which chaos triumphs and rules are forgotten. In the small American city, where the action takes place, there are more and more shootings, people do not clean after their dogs and use violence even in the queues in the local shops, their cars produce clouds of black exhausts. Ruth Kimke’s (great Melanie Lynskey) house is robbed and the protagonist quickly realizes that the police won’t help her in catching the thief. She decides to look for justice on her own with a little help from her eccentric neighbour Tony (very good Elijah Wood)

Ruth makes impression of a weak woman who feels more than the others and who sees the world in black, nihilistic colours. When people around her seem to be reconciled with the cruel reality that is deprived not only of empathy, but also of decency, she is the only one that asks question about the meaning of life and internally rebels against the existing order. She thinks that the world has roughened, people are assholes and it makes her more sad than indifferent. Ruth works as a ward nurse, which in “I Don’t Fell like…” becomes a symbolical profession – connected to empathy and rather low social position. When the last words of a dying old woman is a racist comment, she reaches an extreme level of doubting in humanity that on every step manifests its arrogance, rudeness, and aggression. What’s interesting, the melancholic, depressed character at the same time turns out to be very powerful and maybe even heroic. Blair’s movie is made as an affirmation of weirdoes and outsiders that have the ability of changing the world and at the end shows more charisma than cynics that turn morality and good into a very relative, fluid, and negotiable term.

On her way to justice, Ruth not only follows the criminals that have robbed her house, but also starts to behave like those that she would prefer to stay away from. It’s pretty funny how her character develops, because the director contrast her innocent look with ability of swearing like a shoemaker, drinking beer as it was water, and – above all – of acting against rules and even using violence. The protagonist does things that we would never expect her of doing and it looks like she surprises even herself. What’s important, her change is not presented as a radical metamorphosis, but rather like a process of revealing powers that very already in her. That’s why she loses neither her sensitivity, nor her empathy, which leads to humoristic tensions between her actions and her feelings.

The director doesn’t avoid macabre details, but in “I Don’t Feel like Home…” scenes of grotesque violence are used to do both – highlight the absurdity of the presented situations and to relieve the tension, but not to build a spectacle of the pornography of violence. The good characters respond to violence with violence, but it doesn’t guarantee them a victory. To win, they have to come back to their morality. That’s why Blair’s movie shouldn’t be understood as a variation on the process of ethical downfall that turns good people into monsters. On the contrary – the director remains on the bright side, which is presented in a very suggestive, but also grotesque scene in which Ruth reacts to the brutal events that she has just caused and experienced with massive, compulsive vomits.

Blair’s movie is totally weird, eccentric, and – above all – very refreshing. The director composes it of inspirations from absurd, violent cinema of Tarantino that balances on the edge of realism and macabre grotesque, but also adds original, simple, but touching – dialogues and poetic, subversive monologues. The characters from the second plan represent specific types and are made of schemes, but at the same time the director makes them strangely realistic and moving. For example Meredith (great Christine Woods), a step mother of one of the thieves, is a brilliant portrait of an extremely bored housewife who is in oppressive relationship with a cynical, rich businessman who is very attached to the patriarchal vision of the world and who embodies all stereotypes of a capitalistic monster.

I Don’t Feel Like Home in This World Anymore” is a movie about ordinary, boring people who do incredible and unconventional things. The absurd poetics of the Blair’s story let us understand it as a parable or a brilliant allegory of heroines and heroes that live next door and one day will just shine. The director focuses on hidden powers that can be revealed in extreme situations and turn average townspeople into great warriors. The lesson that we are left with is about potential of small things that can make the world a better place. Let’s start from cleaning our streets!