What do “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” “Personal Velocity,” “Like Crazy,” and “Quinceañera” have in common? All received the Grand Jury Prize for top film at the Sundance Film Festival, and all came and went from cinemas without much commercial success. The 2017 Grand Jury winner, however, went a different route. “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore” arrived at the annual festival as a Netflix original, and as such, debuted exclusively on the streaming service just a little over a month after Sundance. It’s a bold, funny, surprising film, and having the opportunity to see it so soon after its festival victory — at home, no less — is a real treat.
Title: “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore”
Year it debuted: 2017
Where it can be seen: Netflix
Who’s in it: Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, David Yow, Jane Levy
Running time: 96 minutes
Brief plot description: Ruth is a nurse living a ho-hum, rather depressed life. When her home is burglarized, she teams up with a martial arts-obsessed neighbor, Tony (Elijah Wood), to seek out the criminals responsible. However, she finds a bit more than she bargained for, and soon becomes entangled with a group of hardened criminals.
Why it’s worth watching: “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World” is a quintessential Sundance film. With quirky characters, a somewhat meandering plot, quick jumps between humor and shocking violence, the Netflix release brings to mind past festival favorites like Joel and Ethan Coen’s “Blood Simple.” It’s not as memorable as the latter, but “This World” has uniqueness all its own. As the title indicates, the film is an exploration of our overall indifference toward and outright dismissal of the feelings of others.
Melanie Lynskey’s Ruth is a quiet, somber woman who is hurting no one, except perhaps herself. She’s therefore an easy target for thievery, and the loss of her late grandmother’s silver and her own laptop pushes her into action. Elijah Wood’s Tony, meanwhile, has seemingly been waiting his whole life for a chance to use his throwing stars. The duo’s collision with real criminals results in situations both sad and hilarious. (Ruth’s altercation with a pawn shop owner is one of 2017’s most gruesomely funny scenes.)
Director Macon Blair has been known mainly as an actor, in such indie fare as “Blue Ruin” and “Green Room.” For his debut as a director, he has fashioned a smart, intimate success that feels just right on the small screen.