By Daniel Reif
The human experience is all consuming. Not simply a consumption of everything (love, loss, success, peace, war, you know name it). Everything we encounter, can be all consuming.
In Macon Blair’s debut action-dramedy, I don’t feel at home in this world anymore, loneliness feasts on an introverted alcoholic (indie marvel, Melanie Lynskey). Violence soon takes suit when she meets the brutal (yet amusing) unpredictability of her middle-class suburb’s criminal underbelly. Elijah Wood teams as a neighboring cast-out empowered by her incidental cause for vigilantist justice. Together, they set out to taste a slice of self-love, but real love (the scary, icky, extrovert kind) must prevail to best the slingshot of jarring turns in this all-consuming ride to introspection and gore.
The writer-director is already living his moment. A warm share (to say the least) of positive publication followed his debut feature’s unforeseen reward of world cinema’s annual first crown: the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Nate Parker’s recent rejection by the mainstream is a complex exception to the the prize’s history of handing new filmmakers a crisp ticket to “la la land” legacy (heck, you can achieve the Academy Award for Best Director on your very next film), and I don’t feel at home in this world anymore has only begun to irritate press media with its lengthy title. The current box office of powerful projects (Get Out, Logan, post-Oscar rereleases) already shades Netflix’s newest buy, so we’ll witness how the competition effects its award’s journey in time.
Regardless of future, the current attention is not dissimilar to Parker’s pre-controversy praise. Birth of a Nation is a statement on the power of human courage against inhuman evil, and a historical view point into this power’s grave relationship with violence. Triumphant reception to the Nat Turner biopic found replication in 2017’s Sundance choice. Again, a new filmmaker awes this audience with a pointed look at self-repression in an oppressive environment, and (to richer effect) how the choice to fight back has inevitable returns.
Blair opens his flick on the infinite night sky. Stars dress the milky way and rough tree branches strike perspective into our minimal existence. We’re in the unkept, patchy backyard of “Ruth” (Lynskey). A beer in hand, her upward stare is hollow at first sight, but the camera holds to find those soft, slow sips of depression. The stare is all her own. The stare she walks in. The stare she sinks into when she is cut in the grocery store line. The stare she indulges in cannabis-smoking company with “Angie” (Lee Eddy), her married, but emotionally drained, bestie. It’s the stare which consumes her; underlines her awkwardness and existential misery. When Ruth adjourns from her scrappy one-story’s little yard, title credits follow in smart measure, but you can read the words all over her stare.
I don’t feel at home in the world anymore taps into its purpose early. Macon Blair is not new to indie stardom, and Park City relished his dynamic journey in the innovative action-thriller, Blue Ruin, by Jeremy Saulnier. There, he excels as a quiet man who must find his inner badass in a naturally-developed series of unnaturally-heinous conflicts. Here, he channels his close colleague to boot us into shocking terrain… but here, he also gives Lynskey the proper time to move– to live through the uniformed mess of daily grinds and social wares. The purpose is to fuckin’ feel for her, and by the time her house is robbed, you do.
The relief is real when oddball Tony (Wood) gives Ruth an excuse to break her rut of wordlessness. A sidewalk confrontation introduces us to the thin, pony-tailed, recluse. Death metal tracks and a curious hobby-study for Eastern martial arts informs a social defense, but adventure consumes his imagination on the same coin. Ruth recruits an ideal partner-in-anti-crime, and maybe, an ideal partner period.
Insanity envelopes over the final hour of the flick. Dumb youngsters are a doable first threat to the pair, but crass 20-somethings are only decoration. The wall underneath is a twisted trio of unrestrained druggies. “Marshall” (David Yow) is a bald, aged street criminal and pseudo-paternal-figure to hoodie “Dez” (Jane Levy, who lusts him to a yuck) and “Christian” (Devon Graye). In tight threads and a bleached cut from Milo Yiannopoulos’s barber, Graye is keen casting in costume. Big eyes and scaly features punctuate the crackpot crew’s muscle; enflames his slick, sociopathic manner. Yow and Levy are proven performers, but Blair bleaches the N-Sync blonde for all he’s worth!
This theatrical rough-and-tumble is not new. Edgar Wright, and the aforementioned Saulnier, are accessible influences. Shaun of the Dead and Blue Ruin are 21st-Century champions of a contemporary concept: what if you– normal-ass you- had to rub your face in the shit-stain chain of physical brutality. What if you met the dark outside your door. Who would you become? Cinematographer, Larkin Seiple (Cop Car), and editor, Tomas Vengris, rouse frames off the clear modern influences, and the work is finest in a third act that ties humor, suspense, blood, romance, and touching humanism soundly. Assume the winning pattern by Lynksey, Wood, and Graye- the visual storytelling is no less evocative under a determined director’s hand.
An engrossing plot moves I don’t feel at home in this world anymore. Humor moves its expectations. Gore moves its limits. The human experience moves us.
In 90 minutes, no soul is veiled in Blair’s carnival of societal wash-ups. Nor does any soul need revelation. Lynskey’s “Ruth” is the rightness, but “Ruth” is everyone. Pain defines the actions of each player. Pain consumes each player. Gary Anthony Williams (comedy vet) is an indifferent detective- one collapsing under divorce. Marshall is Dez’s only sense of care and companionship. Christian is a trust-fund rebel raised rotten by a wealthy asshole, but that asshole pains for the whereabouts of his baby boy. You root for the right people, but you fuckin’ feel for each person.
Little backstory is exemplary of this movie’s intelligence and empathy. The stellar cast, tight structure, and gritty texture is constantly present. Little past is told so we cannot map the future. Like Ruth and Tony, none of us can know what happens next, so we cannot ignore what does. The fear, violence, destruction, isolation, courage, friendship, romance, power- you name it, we must consume it all.
Now streaming on Netflix.
Written and Directed by Macon Blair – 2017 – Netflix – USA – 1hr 36m – Rated R
March 13, 2017
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