They say in the entertainment industry to ‘write what you know,’ and that’s exactly what writer-director and actor Macon Blair (Blue Ruin, Green Room) did for his directorial debut “I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore” (2017). The film opened the U.S. dramatic film competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where I was lucky enough to watch some panels with the cast and crew about the making of the film.
The film begins by introducing Ruth, a caregiver whose life is as boring as her modest home and work. Yet, when she comes home one day and finds that someone has broken into her house and stolen her laptop and grandma’s silverware, something snaps. Ruth, played by New Zealand actress Melanie Lynskey (Girl Boss, Two and a Half Men), immediately calls the police, but finds that the officers’ seriousness toward her break-in is lacking. After finding the location of her laptop from an app on her phone, she then recruits her weird neighbor Tony, played by critically-acclaimed Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings), to accompany her on her crazy quest to claim what’s rightfully hers.
At the surface, the film has a seemingly common and bland idea, yet it was all inspired by Blair’s personal experience with his own break-in. He told Rolling Stone magazine that he had already had a loose sketch of a lead character in mind: someone who was basically fed up in general. “It was just a matter of where to put her,” Blair said in an interview. He then chose the one scene from his own life where he related most to his character and wrote from there.
“I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore” is far from being just about the break-in, though. Blair truly let his mind run wild, as the characters ultimately cross paths with drug-dealing murderers.
The first stop of the hunt, though, is a pawnshop, inspired by the first spot Blair checked for his own laptop. Yet, unlike Blair, when Ruth spots her grandma’s silverware on a shelf, she feels it’s her right to claim it as her own and walked out without paying.
When the cashier tries to stop her, she turns around and takes her attitude of “‘wanting to punch the world in the face” to do just that.
“I loved how angry she was,” Lynskey said to Rolling Stone magazine. “I was a little afraid when we kicked an old man in the head that we’d maybe gone too far, but people don’t seem to have a problem with it, and I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.”
Having an extremely quirky plot line mixed with dark elements of intense comedic violence, captured not only Netflix’s attention, but Sundance as a whole, winning the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize, a win that surprised even Blair.
He stated, in response to the film’s major creative freedom, “Yeah, it was a lot. But in the end, for all the funny stuff and the shocking stuff, I was making a crime movie where the detective character is really chasing after the notion that people could maybe, just maybe, be less of an asshole in their daily life.”
Variety states that “I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore” is the perfect example of the fresh indie voice people come to Sundance to discover, and after personally having watched it more than five times in two days on Netflix, I’d have to say I completely agree. It had the perfect balance, from comedy to well-developed character relationships to intriguing shock value. The film captures this relatable feeling of “sometimes people are terrible,” yet dishes it in a way that makes you question your own thoughts on how you deal with it everyday.
Rachel Blumberg can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org