Macon Blair gained a certain amount of expertise as a protégé of Jeremy Saulnier who directed him in each of his films thus far. Blair’s style in his debut film I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore certainly borrows some from Saulnier in terms of depicting violence and portraying its villains as gritty American suburban thugs, but also is distinct to Blair himself in his ability to bend genres- traits from comedy, mystery, thriller, and teen drama are all present here. I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore is kind of like the movie equivalent of trail mix.
Its protagonist, Ruth (Melanie Lynskey), a nursing assistant, feels troubled by how people treat each other in day-to-day interactions. Among mankind’s discourtesy, people are egocentric, let their dogs poop in neighbors’ lawns, and cut each other in line at the grocery store. When Ruth’s home is burglarized, she takes it upon herself to find the culprit. She is downright infuriated and wants her burglars to know of their indecency. She could care less about what was taken. She finds an unlikely accomplice in Tony (Elijah Wood), a mousy man with a rattail haircut, shortly after she throws his dog’s poop at him.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore blurs childlike humor and spurts of grotesque violence as Ruth and Tony discover who had burglarized her home. The film is akin to independent films of the 90s, especially those that center around a group of children. I like to imagine Ruth and Tony are these children, just on camera twenty years later with only minimal maturity and personal growth occurring since.
Ruth struggles with existential questions (as the film’s title suggests) while Toby provides her with a sense of clarity much needed in her life. Perhaps the film’s most beautiful moment is when Tony is driving with Ruth and she asks him “what are we doing here [on Earth]” and he answers “trying to be good, be better” with a gentle smile. That’s likely how best Ruth becomes able to reconcile her doubts while discovering her sense of purpose and belonging in this world.