I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore.

So I’m told that the new movie I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore isn’t technically a movie, because Netflix bought the film at January’s Sundance Festival and released it directly to its streaming service, bypassing a theatrical release entirely. That means it’s ineligible for annual movie awards and (most) critics’ lists. I don’t think the movie was going to end up earning Oscar nods, but it might have been on some top ten lists given its indie cred and noir-farcical feel, along with a pretty great performance by Elijah Wood.

Melanie Lynskey plays the protagonist, Ruth, a frumpy, meek post-op nurse who lives alone, is constantly put-upon or merely stepped-on, and comes home from the Worst Day Ever to find that someone broke into her house and stole her laptop and her grandmother’s silver. The police are indifferent and even blame her* a bit for the break-in, giving zero reason for her to expect to ever see her stuff again. She had location-tracking software on her laptop, however, and when her phone tells her the laptop has been turned on and is located about a ten-minute drive away, she recruits her martial arts-obsessed neighbor, Tony, to go get it back … which leads them into one semi-incompetent escapade after another until people start getting shot.

* Unrelated: last year, we had a false alarm at our house for unknown reasons, but the police ended up getting to the house before we could return and call them off. The officer who went through the house was really unpleasant to us after, saying we’d left “every door unlocked,” and all but calling us idiots. While we have certainly made the mistake of leaving one door unlocked, there’s one door that we never open and that is always locked, one he claimed was left unlocked … which it wasn’t. So I probably related to Ruth a little more than usual when the cop was talking down to her.

I keep seeing references to this film as “neo-noir,” but it’s noirish, at best, and is too comical, with protagonists and antagonists too inept, to really qualify as noir. Ruth and Tony are just amateurs, and they get drunk on the success of the laptop retrieval mission. When they get closer to the bumbling, violent idiots behind the burglary, things get more serious, except that the gang literally can’t shoot straight, and we get a Fargo-esque screwup that leaves a few people dead and Ruth running for her life from the big baddie, played by David Yow (lead singer of the Jesus Lizard). The tone definitely gets darker as the film goes on, but less in a Touch of Evil sort of way, more in a Pulp Fiction holy-shit-people-are-dying-horrible-deaths way.

There is a broader theme underlying I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore that takes it beyond mere indie black-comedy territory – that people today are losing their empathy. Ruth views the burglary as the greatest violation in a day of minor violations, and thinks the problem is just that people are assholes (her word for it, not that I disagree). And when she confronts some of the people who were assholes to her, only one, Tony, actually sets about proving her wrong. There’s no answer to the questions of where our empathy went, or how to get it back, but as the foundational observation for an inept crime caper film, it works quite well.

By the way, Lynskey’s first major role in anything was in 1994’s Heavenly Creatures, where she played Pauline Parker, who murdered her mother with the help of her friend Juliet Hulme. The director of that film was Peter Jackson, who later directed the Lord of the Rings films, starring … Elijah Wood. Hulme was played by another then-unknown actress, Kate Winslet. And you probably know who Juliet Hulme is, but not by that name: She was released from prison after serving her five-year term, changed her name to Anne Perry, and became a best-selling author of historical detective fiction.


  1. I enjoyed this film. I was shocked when I realized that Lynskey also played the part of Rose in “Two and a Half Men”- totally unrecognizable.

  2. It was okay. Although it was out of left field, I enjoyed Christine Woods’ performance as the bored wife of the bad guy.

  3. “There is a broader theme underlying I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore that takes it beyond mere indie black-comedy territory – that people today are losing their empathy.”

    Couldn’t agree more. Conversations I’ve had with family, friends, colleagues, and strangers seems to reveal a consensus that there is a lack of empathy prevailing in society at the moment. The underlying root causes of this are difficult to ascertain, but I would venture to say that the rise of dehumanizing rhetoric (describing other human beings as “illegals”) and the classism combined with regionalism (hard-working white folks who are Real Americans vs. a rich, condescending, Liberal Elite and their lazy “inner city” minority allies who want government handouts on both coasts) has played a significant role in the US. It’s difficult not to despair about it sometimes.

  4. Wait… if this isn’t considered a movie than why was the ESPN OJ documentary up for an Oscar?

    • It was shown in theaters first, specifically so it would be eligible. The only theaters that had it were in NYC and LA, which is a dead giveaway–that’s JUST enough to qualify for the ballot and to reach most of the Academy voters.

    • Thanks, CB. I live in NYC and had no idea it was ever in theaters here. How screwy.

  5. I really enjoyed this movie. The writer/director, Macon Blair, starred in 2 of my favorite movies of the last 5 years; “Blue Ruin” and “Green Room” both by director Jeremy Saulnier. If you like this movie I can’t recommend those movies highly enough. They’re both violent, noir-ish films that have a bit of dark humor in them, but nowhere near as much as this film does. “Green Room” was one of the last films that the late Anton Yelchin appeared in, so that just adds an extra layer of sadness to it, but it’s still a brilliant little gem. Check them out!