We’ve all experienced the slings and arrows of modern life: rude or thoughtless actions by strangers we encounter that make us angry. The character played by Melanie Lynskey in I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is having one of those days when the slights and insults reach a tipping point. When her house is robbed and the police don’t seem to care, she enlists the help of an oddball neighbor (Elijah Wood) and together they embark on a journey to hell and back in the name of setting things right.

In his directorial debut, actor and writer Macon Blair (Blue Ruin) manages to orchestrate the crescendo of increasingly bizarre incidents so they somehow make sense. His film is well-cast and well made, on location in Oregon, but the ace up his sleeve is his leading actor. Melanie Lynskey is so invested in her performance as Ruth, so completely convincing, that we accept even the most outlandish events, just as she does. It’s also a lot of fun seeing Elijah Wood in a role unlike any he’s had before. They make a dynamic team.

Living in a humdrum house, holding down a thankless job as an assistant nurse in a post-op facility, Ruth has little to care about on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps that’s why she feels the sting of irritations so acutely when someone cuts in front of her at the supermarket checkout line or doesn’t pick up after his dog.

That’s how she chances to meet Wood, who’s so lost in his thoughts (and the music in his ear buds) that he doesn’t pay attention to his dog’s bowel movements. He’s an unlikely ally, but he’s the only one she can turn to when she needs backup taking the law into her own hands.

I Don’t Feel At Home in This World Anymore is a vigilante story turned upside down and played as a violent farce. The characters and situations are just believable enough to keep us engaged, even as our jaws slacken at some of Blair’s incredible twists and turns.

Best of all, the movie doesn’t drag on. Told in a compact 93 minutes, it feels just right. Lynskey and Wood are supported by mostly unfamiliar but highly capable character actors. When it’s all over, we’re allowed to breathe a sigh of relief with the hope that nothing as awful or outrageous ever happens to us. That’s good storytelling. No wonder I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore won the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It debuts today on Netflix.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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May 2024