Ruth Kimke (Melanie Lynskey) is a single, honest-hearted nursing assistant terminally let down by the cruelty, disrespect and entitlement of mankind. She witnesses it everywhere she goes, from the bitter elderly hospital patient (Marilyn Faith Hickey) who dies moments after spitting out a vitriolic rant, to a grocery store passerby who doesn't bother to pick up the food item he drops in the aisle, to the bar dude (Macon Blair) who seemingly bonds with her over the novel she's reading before carelessly and unapologetically spoiling the ending. She does her best to let these things slide off her back, but she absolutely cannot abide by what happens next: her house is burglarized and her computer and late grandma's cherished silver are stolen. Ruth is not concerned so much with the material possessions taken, but with the barrier-breaking violation of the criminal act. When the police prove to be no help, she turns to an unlikely allylonely neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood), who has been inadvertently allowing his dog to poop in her front yardto help her track down the thieves behind the home invasion.
Like a shot through the heart, the mind, and one's increasingly frayed nerves, "I don't feel at home in this world anymore." is the phenomenally assured directorial debut of actor Macon Blair (2014's "Blue Ruin
"). Mesmerizingly criss-crossing any number of genres, the film is at once a sharply funny observational comedy, a poignantly felt slice-of-life, a craftily absorbing investigative procedural, and an unflinchingly tense neo-noir thriller. Most of all, it is stirringly original, a showcase for the underrated light and brilliance of Melanie Lynskey (2016's "The Intervention
") in one of the best roles of her career. Lynskey is front and center throughout as Ruth, a non-conforming yet instantly identifiable and sympathetic protagonist who has had it with the so-called assholes of the world. Probing into the whereabouts of her snatched items and eventually to the perpetrators behind it, Ruth and Tony are taken on a surprising, increasingly hair-raising small-town odyssey, almost poetic in its collision course of compassion and violence. Saying much more would ruin the innate pleasure of discovery.
Not enough superlatives can be showered upon Melanie Lynskey for her remarkably affecting, exquisitely understated performance. No matter the movie, when she is onscreen, the viewer cannot help but lean forward and pay attention. When she is handed a great part worthy of her talents, as she was in 2012's "Hello I Must Be Going" and now here, the results are close to magic. One and all, her co-stars are faultless, each one so specifically written and indelibly played that even those with fleeting screen time stand out. Elijah Wood (2015's "Cooties
") brings a sensitive live-wire goodness to Tony, a relatively odd sort who gladly helps Ruth because, really, he's simply excited to feel included in something. Devon Graye (2014's "13 Sins
") is appropriately weaselly as young thief Christian Rumack, a spoiled screw-up who never should have trespassed on Ruth's domain, and David Yow (2016's "Southbound") brings an intimidating command to Christian's petty crime boss Marshall. Lee Eddy, as Ruth's only friend Angie, and Gary Anthony Williams (2013's "The Internship
"), as the particularly unhelpful Detective Bendix, also make lasting impressions.
And then there's Christine Woods (HBO's short-lived "Hello Ladies"), a hilarious but not caricatured spitfire as Christian's bored, boozy stepmother Meredith. Knowing full well they aren't the police officers they say they are yet welcoming Ruth and Tony into her mansion for the chance to have someone to talk to, Meredith is a study in how to impeccably write a supporting character. In only a few scenes, the totality of who she is and what is missing in her life are understood. Woods is phenomenal; in her naturally skilled comic timing and her propensity for finding emotional truth even in broad strokes, she reminds of no one less than Kristen Wiig.
"I don't feel at home in this world anymore." is every bit as miraculous as Melanie Lynskey's tremendous turn, a motion picture that, like Jordan Peele's recent socially stinging thriller "Get Out
," feels more relevant than ever in the face of the political unrest, fear and exclusivity happening in the early months of the Trump presidency. Writer-director Macon Blair has made a film of organic, rhapsodic, fully realized confidence, never once stepping wrong even when he takes creative and tonal leaps. It's as if he's been a filmmaker for decades, the intimacy of his character study and the quirky imagination of his mise en scèneas in a church-set montage scored to Echo and the Bunnymen's "Bring on the Dancing Horses"the work of a commendable auteur. Meanwhile, the pot-boiling suspense and jolting brutality of his third act is on equal footing with the best of Joel and Ethan Coen, never losing sight of Ruth or her personal journey. "I don't feel at home in this world anymore." leads to a finale, and then a conclusion, both weird and wonderful, unexpected and pure. Through her loss of faith in humanity and her determination to no longer play the part of a meek victim, Ruth somehow finds hope again. The world can still be a shitty place, but there's also goodness in it she had feared was no longer there.