By Nikki Busalacchi
While I’m a movie buff in general, I’m ready to admit that I have a bit of a horror obsession. Really, you name it, I’ve probably seen it twice (and I probably lost some sleep over it, too), so it was a bit of a struggle for me to click out of the horror/thriller genre and into something else. Right after horror on my short list of favorites is independent films, though, and Netflix’s indie selection came through with the film I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, directed by Macon Blair. The blurb reads “She was tired of being a doormat. Getting robbed was the last straw. Now she and her weirdo neighbor are fighting back,” and while none of these statements apply to me in the slightest, they had me at weirdo.
Ruth Kimke (Melanie Lynskey), a depressed nursing assistant, seems to get the short end of the stick in every aspect of her life. From a stranger spoiling her book to an asshole letting his dog shit on her lawn every day, she admits to her best friend (Lee Eddy) that she feels like she’s drowning. But when her house is robbed and the police are hesitant to put forth any effort, it’s the last straw for Ruth. As she befriends her hard rock-loving neighbor, Tony, (played by fucking Elijah Wood, if you can believe it) – who is also pretty skilled at combat and has a passion for justice and the Lord – she decides to take matters into her own hands.
After following her phone to the location of her stolen laptop, armed with Tony and his throwing stars, she manages to gather some information about a consignment shop that’s been selling stolen things. Ruth and Tony take their newfound knowledge and courage along with them to get her things back, unaware that a group of violent thieves is behind the steal-and-sell operation. After some amateur detective work – including using a cereal box police badge to talk to the parents of the thief who’d been in Ruth’s house – things take a turn for the worse, and the two vigilantes find themselves in way over their heads.
In this relatable-film-turned-what-the-fuck-is-going-on, Melanie Lynskey’s performance as a strong female lead is refreshing, well-executed, and even seems to be a subtle nod to breaking gender roles. Ruth pushes her way through daily letdowns and realistic wrong-place-wrong-time scenarios (with the help of Clonazepam), allowing for an oh shit, I’ve been there feel. While most of us haven’t tracked down petty criminals with a Bible-thumping sidekick or stolen lawn art (yeah, that’s a thing), the progression of the friendship built onscreen and the not unreasonable request for people to just stop being assholes, Jesus, do an exceptional job at reeling in an audience. A wild ride from start to finish, this award-winning Netflix original puts a new spin on plot progression: while I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore starts off slow and depressing, lessons learned, doubts abolished, and opportunities taken lead to a pretty exciting and fast-paced last act – one that tests Ruth’s dedication to her values and her relationships.
Visually enticing and logically put together, this movie left me feeling just a little more confident and capable – and also glad that I don’t have to think about stealing back my anti-depressants. Aside from some secondhand embarrassment for the main characters at key points in their journey, I Don’t Feel at Home is a feel-good film that I would recommend to anyone interested in crime dramas, thrillers, or comedies – and frankly, this indie film deserves more recognition.
Available on Netflix.