“I see why he turned out like he did.”
Tom’s rating: Come for the subtle comedy, stay for the interesting subtexts
Tom’s review: There’s something about movies with an entire sentence for their title, isn’t there? Take for example It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Joining that long-titled club is a Sundance Film Festival flick with a Netflix-only release titled I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. It’s a very subtle, dark comedy/thriller that is surprisingly violent, in which we watch the heroine of the story, Ruth, transform from negative passive milquetoast to positive unwitting vigilante.
The movie begins by showing an unfortunate day in the life of a nurse named Ruth, played by Melanie Lynskey. While listening to a newscast of yet another school shooting on the way to work, she begins to see people around her just being awful humans. Some behaviors are simple rude discretions like cutting in line at the grocery store, driving trucks designed to spew smoke stacks into the air, and finding dog poop on her own lawn despite a hand-crafted no-dog-pooping sign. Other incidents are a bit more devastating, like Ruth’s patient spewing racial slurs right before she dies or the terrible end cap to the day, Ruth’s house being broken into.
Among the stolen property were a laptop, some prescription medicines, and her irreplaceable grandmother’s silverware collection. To make things seem even more unjust, after filing a report with the police, all they seem to do is blame her for leaving her back door open!
She ends up at her friend’s house where she stays the night and unloads her feelings of violation and hopeless feelings that everyone is basically a jerk and rude to each other. To top that off, Ruth admits that she herself feels like when we die, it’s just lights out as we revert back to the carbon we’re made of — so what’s the point? It’s at this moment where a switch flips inside Ruth, and we start to see her transform, beginning with throwing some fresh dog poop at an oblivious Tony, played by Elijah Wood, while out walking his dog.
This same Tony eventually becomes a sidekick to Ruth as they hunt down her laptop and silverware and uncover the mystery of who really stole these items. While this is happening, we see the character of Ruth start to change and evolve where she is now the violator and thief, cutting in line at the grocery store, and no longer the victim but the victimizer. All the while, Tony also starts to introduce Ruth to his religion as he continues to help her on her vigilante mission to uncover the truth and tell people they shouldn’t be such jerks.
That is where the real gem in this movie can be found — in its subtext and silent philosophical questions. At one point, Ruth smashes a plaster mold of her thief’s footprint into the throat of that very same thief, but it isn’t his crushed windpipe that kills him. Rather he dies to a bus that runs into him while he staggers out into the road with said crushed windpipe. It’s this very same act that causes the thief’s friends to hold her hostage and force her to be an accomplice to a robbery that goes very very wrong. This all ends up with several people dead (none directly caused by Ruth) and Ruth’s beloved Tony stabbed several times.
At the end of the movie, Tony is passed out in a boat near death while Ruth is chased down by the villain of the movie. While being chased, Ruth stumbles into a water moccasin den and manages to avoid being bitten by remaining clam and moving slowly. Ruth eventually overcomes her pursuer by throwing rocks at him, causing him to stumble into the moccasin den and dying to a bite. Ultimately, all the deaths caused by Ruth’s quest to uncover the truth and tell people they shouldn’t be such jerks are all incidental like this.
After this, Ruth is lost in the forest, needing desperately to return to a near-death Tony, so she can attempt to get him help. This is when the once hopeless athiestic Ruth, who believed there is nothing beyond this life, is visited by her deceased grandmother, pointing her in the direction of Tony, and the boat, and the way out.
Beyond this, there is also a quiet moment of redemption where Ruth’s life could have been ruined by being fingered as an accomplice to the robbery and murders that went horribly wrong. But she is shown mercy. It’s a 180-degree moment at the end of the movie showing that perhaps there is goodness in people after all.
It’s the combination of subtle humor and storytelling subtexts that make this a great film — as well as some wonderful acting in particular from Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood. It’s easy to see why this film won big at Sundance back in 2017!
- They’re some really thoughtful music selection in this film, including an Echo and the Bunnymen track out of nowhere!
- In fact, as it turns out the title of the movie comes from a Bluegrass song, which they played in the movie.
- My word, that water moccasin attached to the villain’s throat at the end looked so fake.