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D: Macon Blair / 93m

Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, David Yow, Devon Graye, Jane Levy, Gary Anthony Williams, Myron Natwick, Christine Woods, Robert Longstreet

Ruth (Lynskey) is a nursing assistant who is continually annoyed by the thoughtlessness of others. When she comes home from work one day to find that she’s been burgled and the thief has stolen her laptop, grandmother’s silverware and some prescription medication, her day is made even worse when the investigating detective, Bendix (Williams), chides her for leaving her back door unlocked. Later, as she goes door to door to see if anyone saw anything, she meets Tony (Wood) who becomes violently outraged at what has happened. Ruth discovers evidence in her backyard – a conspicuous shoeprint in the mud – and when she uses a phone app to track her laptop, and discovers its location, Bendix is uninterested. Needing someone to go with her to retrieve her laptop, Ruth asks Tony, who’s only too keen to do so. When they get it back, they learn it was bought from a resale shop. There, Ruth discovers her grandmother’s silverware, and as she tries to sneak it out, she also discovers a young man (Graye) at the counter wearing a shoe that’s a match for the print in her garden…

The words ‘quirky’ and ‘unconventional’ seem tailor-made for I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore., Macon Blair’s feature debut as a writer/director. You could add ‘wacky’ and ‘peculiar’, and they wouldn’t be too far off the mark either. But while there are plenty of other low budget indie movies that fit those descriptions quite easily, what Blair has achieved here is something a little more rarefied. In Ruth, there’s a temptation to view this as a “worm has turned” story, but that would be to cast a superficial eye over both the material and Ruth herself. Ruth may be one of Life’s minor victims, and she may appear to be a bystander in her own life, but she has an innate strength of character that just needs the right stimulus to bring her into her own. Being robbed does just that, and by aligning herself with Tony – who has a number of his own issues – Ruth becomes empowered in a way she’s unfamiliar with. It’s a step in the right direction, but Blair is confident enough in his screenplay to ensure that Ruth’s journey doesn’t change her completely. By the end, she’s more positive, but she’s still finding herself.

By making Ruth’s journey one that is affectionately handled and which resonates far more than expected, Blair has gifted Lynskey with yet another terrific role for the actress to make her own. Whether she’s sipping beer from a bottle out of habit, or being instinctively happy when she finds others are reading the same book she is, Ruth is a wonderful creation. Blair is equally on form with the rest of the characters, with Wood’s NWBHM-loving Tony prone to inappropriate violent outbursts, and Graye’s troubled teen burglar, Christian, having a back story that takes the material into unforeseen territory. In amongst the millennial concerns and suburban drama there’s a great deal of comedy, from Ruth’s look when asked the last words of a deceased patient, to a lovely visual gag involving Tony’s dog, Kevin, and the reaction of Christian’s stepmother (Woods) when asked why she’s speaking to two fake cops (that she knows are fake cops). Blair’s ‘quirky’ sensibility ensures the movie is always interesting for what’s going to happen next, and there’s first-rate cinematography from Larkin Seiple that paints Ruth’s particular part of suburbia as a bright yet deceptively unstable place to live.

Rating: 8/10 – another wonderful performance from the always reliable Lynskey anchors I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore., and makes it one of the more enjoyable indie movies of recent years; with such a good meld of drama and comedy, and a cruel streak to keep things ‘unconventional’, Blair’s directorial debut is so good that his next movie can’t come quickly enough.

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