‘I Don’t Feel at Home’ Review: Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood Kick Butt

Macon Blair’s bloody black comedy gives Lynskey a rare chance to be tough, not tender

I don't feel at home in this world anymore
Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

At this point, bloody black crime comedies in which escalating gore turns to slapstick are pretty much an indie genre all their own, descended from Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie and populated with sketchy losers whose misadventures land them in increasing trouble until most of them are dead and nobody — including the audience — survives unscathed or unpunished.

Those films can be messy and sick and ridiculous — and also, if they’re done right, a lot of fun. And on opening night at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, Macon Blair did it right with “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore,” which takes its title from a Carter Family lament but its sensibility from far grislier sources, including Blair’s longtime collaborator Jeremy Saulnier (“Green Room,” “Blue Ruin”).

This is the movie to see if you want to see the great Melanie Lynskey bleed ‘n’ barf — and really, given the unpredictable charm and sensitivity she’s shown since she and Kate Winslet came out of obscurity to star in Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures,” who wouldn’t want to see that?

I don’t really mean to be dismissive with that comment, either. Lynskey usually plays the wallflower, the troubled girl, the housewife whose husband cheats on her (in the recently-departed HBO show “Togetherness”). She seems to be playing another of those typical roles in the first part of the film; she’s Ruth, a kind, timid woman who lives alone and is annoyed by the jerks who surround her in the neighborhood, the market, the bar, the roads …

But when her house is broken into and a thief gets away with her laptop, her medication and her grandmother’s silver service, something snaps and Lynskey, for once, gets to kick butt. She teams up with Tony, a tiny, weird neighbor played by Elijah Wood as a socially awkward waif who hides his ineptness with heavy metal music and martial arts training. And together, well, they get into a whole lot of trouble.

The details are less important than the glee with which Blair twists the genre and whips up a concoction that gets increasingly weird, violent and over-the-top, and the equal glee with which his unusual stars Lynskey and Wood inhabit their glorious misfits on a rampage, albeit a rampage to right some wrongs.

“I Don’t Feel at Home … ,” which is coming to Netflix in February, gets silly, but it’s supposed to. It goes on too long, but that’s kind of the point. It escalates past the point of absurdity, but all you can do as an audience member is shake your head and laugh.

Actually, the opening-night audience at the Eccles Theatre did more than that. They screamed and hollered when it was over, a reception only partly due to the fact that it felt as if most of the cast and crew was in the house.

In the post-screening Q&A, Lynskey talked about how the action-packed roles usually go to skinnier girls, and said the film was so much fun to make that she not only cried on the last day of shooting, but for the five days leading up to that. And while this spirited genre exercise isn’t likely to bring many others to tears, it’s good, sick fun.