“What do you want?”
“For people to not be assholes.”
Definitely worth a watch and now streaming on Netflix, I Don't Feel at Home Here Anymore is a film about missing elements – absent connections, stolen objects, fears, failures, incomplete desires, and our longing to fill those voids with something, or someone, tangible, hopeful and good. It’s also about the hollowness of suburban life, justice, the consequences of our choices, and accepting our places in this world. Filled with dark and often awkward humor, it travels down an offbeat path to a startling and thought-provoking conclusion.
This low-budget black comedy thriller stars Melanie Linskey as Ruth, a nursing assistant who is disillusioned and bored with her job. I enjoyed Linskey in XX but was disappointed with that film overall, so it’s nice to see her in a primary role and a more well-crafted film. Both Linskey and Elijah Wood shine in this film, Linskey with her misappropriated social anxiety and Wood with his eccentric kung fu antics and humor, and there’s also the welcome presence of Jane Levy, although vastly under-utilized.
The title comes from the country song “I Can’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore” (played later in the film) by Unity Road, and the setting and style suggest the story takes place somewhere in the south, possibly Louisiana.
We start with a patient dying, murmuring obscene sexual fantasies. This is Ruth’s daily life. She drinks a lot and hangs out at bars reading fantasy novels to presumably escape reality. When a rando guy realizes what she’s reading, he proceeds to ruin the series for her, robbing her of that one, great moment before casually slipping off without acknowledging his misdeed. We get the sense that Ruth has little to look forward to in life and often feels a victim.
She gets home (with a self-made “no dog poop” sign in the yard) to realize that she has been robbed and files a report with the police for her missing laptop, grandmother’s silver and medicine (Clonazepam and Lexapro – both used for treating anxiety and depression). The detective asks about location apps on the laptop, but she says it’s turned off.
He seems to blame Ruth for leaving her door unlocked as there’s no sign of forced entry, encourages her to improve her home security and dismisses the case as unimportant.
She calls her best friend, Trixie, and in a scene in which we think she’s condifing the “violation” of the robbery, which bothers her more than the stolen belongings, it turns out she’s actually in the midst of reading a bedtime story to Trixie‘s daughter. The bedtime story seems to only pique Ruth’s anxiety and fears, explaining the infiniteness of the universe, prompting her to tears and upsetting the child.
Over smoking a bowl, Ruth talks to Trixie about the patient who died earlier. She’s not affected by the woman’s death in particular but seems more concerned with the idea of people becoming dead bodies and ultimately ash or carbon. Her grandmother, a war nurse who Ruth admired, died of a stroke. This leads her back to the missing silver, the only tangible reminder of her deceased grandmother and the notion that people treat each other like shit.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m underneath a whirlpool, and I can’t even breathe.”
All this suggests that Ruth lives in a state of routine disappointment, suffers from anxiety and fear of the world around her and has been on the verge of snapping for some time. With her medicine now stolen, who’s to say whether or not this influences her eventual decision to stand up and fight the system, so to speak.
She spends the night, to the husband’s annoyance, and is awakened by the daughter, who’s sweetly drawn a picture of Ruth riding a stegosaurus. “I fucking love it.” We understand that Ruth craves empowerment.
Back at home, neighbor Tony, fantastically played by Elijah Wood, makes the mistake of allowing his dog, Kevin, to poop in Ruth’s shit-free yard. Ruth runs after him and hurls the magazine-wrapped turd at him. He’s clearly confused by Ruth’s offense, scoops the waste up and walks off.
Inside, Ruth cleans up and looks for clues of the robbers. After finding a broken light and footprint in her backyard, she makes a cast of it to determine the foot size then questions all the neighbors if they’ve seen anyone suspicious, but no one has any real leads.
Eventually she ends up at Tony’s, who’s in the backyard blasting rock music and pumping iron.
“That’s not me. Leaving a BM in your yard? That’s not who I am. I was embarrassed. Sometimes I just get so deep in my thoughts, ya know? And I don’t even notice what Kevin’s doing.”
He offers to let her hit him to balance the energy between them, which weirds her out. She tells him about the robbery, and he seems unnaturally angry from her news and smashes the corner of a table with his num-chuks.
Back at home, and of course drinking, Ruth fires up her location app to discover her laptop online and calls the police to inform them. But they can’t help her as they need a search warrant and only offer to add her information to the police report.
So she decides to take things into her own hands and checks out the address, where a group of young punks are hanging out and messing around with potato launchers in the front lawn. Afraid to confront them alone, she calls her best friend’s husband but ultimately ends up at Tony’s requesting his help.
Tony wears glasses, a rat-tail braid, a porn stache, and kisses his cross necklace in prayer before they exit the car. When the door man dismisses Ruth’s claim to her laptop inside, Tony pops him in the face with his num-chucks, then busts through the door, hurling his ninja star into the wall and tossing a firecracker on the floor.
Ruth uses the location app to sound an alarm from her laptop, on the table surrounded by the young punks. The group is in such disbelief that they calmly allow her to take it back while Ruth chastises them about their poor behavior. Turns out they bought the laptop from a consignment shop and have no idea where her silver or medicine is. They write the address down for her. Tony’s retrieval of his ninja star, now stuck in the wall, is pretty hilarious.
“That’s how hard I threw it.”
The rest of the night is spent drinking and dancing merrily. It seems Ruth and Tony make an unlikely pair, both feeling rejuvenated and positive after their successful confrontation. But who has her silver and her medicine?
Devon Graye plays Christian (appropriately named) who makes his rounds crashing parties and sneaking into houses to steal. Jane Levy plays Dez, a member of a drug-using group in the woods led by Marshall. Christian trades stolen jewels to get his fix. They seem to be headed toward some higher goal or plan.
“We’re almost there, my monkeys.”
Visiting the address the punks gave them, Tony says, “Maybe we should hold hands. Like we’re engaged.” There is definitely romantic interest at play.
But the old man running the junk shop seems a little eccentric and out of his gourd, wishing only to impress them with his keyboard. They do, however, find her silver stashed on a shelf in the back. Recovering it brings back visions of Ruth’s grandmother, but are we sure it’s actually her grandmother’s box? Or is she just latching onto what could be a suitable replacement? Is Sally Kimke her real grandmother? Or are the lack of medication and the circumstances driving her over the edge?
Ruth attempts to slip out but then notices the shoes of the young man visiting with the store owner. Recognizing him as her assailant, she follows him. The old man takes off after her demanding payment, but she dismisses him saying, “it’s stolen property.” She hits him in the face with the corner of the box when he grabs her arm. Immediately feeling sorry, she apologizes, but he responds by breaking her finger. Tony saves the day, hitting him in the face and bragging about his “side kick.”
After a visit to the hospital, Ruth is high on pain meds as Tony drives them home.
“What are we doing here – in the world?”
“Trying to be good. Or to be better.”
“Am I good?”
Ruth confesses a fear of death, saying everything is just going to be black like when you turn off the TV. He encourages her to visit his church, saying how funny the reverend is. They end up holding hands in the pews and later walking the dog down a street cast in golden sunset, the image of a happy couple. She later rests her head on his shoulder. This feels safe and warm.
Back with the gang of monkeys, they receive a bag of weapons. It’s a stick up, so apparently they’re planning a larger heist.
Tony and Ruth look up the tag number of Christian’s car from their visit to the junk yard the previous day. She discovers he’s reading the same fantasy novel, but he asks her not to spoil it for him – he hates that. They seem to be on the same wavelength.
After determining Christian’s identity, Ruth brings the detective the imprint of his shoe and the print-out of his info from Tony’s websurfing, but he dismisses her as having insufficient evidence and asks her if she’s been able to restart her medication.
“The world is bigger than your silverware. People are experiencing bigger problems.”
Then even the detective breaks down about his own issues – his wife is leaving him. And tells her to go home.
So they get a fake police badge from a box of Fruit Loops at the grocery store and take off once more on their own. Christian’s home is large and wealthy, and his front door is answered by a suzie homemaker type who is pleasant and friendly. Apparently this is his step mom. When questioned about Christian’s whereabouts, she implies that he has a history of bad decision making.
When served coffee, Tony charmingly brags about his barista skills from working at Borders.
“I got pretty good with the steamer. Could do smiley faces, winking faces. Certain kinds of centaurs, oak leaves, snowmen, diagram of an atom. Flaming swords, Kevin.”
Stepmom informs us that Chris Junior got into drugs and went to jail, then got involved with a bad group.
“He made me nervous. Did you ever see The Omen?”
Chris Senior comes home, and the bodyguard, Cesar, frisks Ruth and Tony. Husband and wife enter a domestic dispute. She admits she let them into the house because she’s bored while the bodyguard audibly and comically clears the remaining rooms of the house.
He questions them about their purpose for being in his home, and Ruth explains that she had intended to confront Chris Junior. “You can’t do that to people.” Chris Senior laughs at and berates her, asking what she expected to happen, and says, “People can do anything if you let them. Welcome to the world.”
When asked about a payoff, Ruth seems offended.
“What do you want?”
“For people to not be assholes.”
“You can tell yourself you did something here. Really took a stand.”
Ruth vandalizes the property as they leave empty-handed, disfiguring his topiary figures and stealing their tiger. Tony is angry with Ruth for stealing. She accuses him of not supporting her, mocking, “What would Jesus do?” He’s clearly offended, and now she’s pushed away her only real support system.
Back at home, Chris breaks into her house, and she (ironically) immediately hits him in the throat with the foot imprint. He runs off to the van of monkeys, but is hit by a bus before he reaches them. Ruth dials 911, but before she can finish her explanation, Dez bashes her in the face with the butt of a gun.
She awakens to Dez and Marshall cloaked in t-shirt masks.
“You have such beautiful black little eyes.”
When a crowd gathers outside as an ambulance wheels away Christian’s body, Tony visits Ruth’s house to find her missing.
Now things get crazy.
Dez and Marshall force Ruth to participate in their robbery. As it turns out, the house they’re robbing is Chris’ parents’. The stepmom yells at her for stealing her tiger. Dez blows off Chris Senior’s hand, and Marhsall shoots Cesar in the gut and neck while Ruth pukes all over the floor.
After raiding the safe in the fireplace, they’re about to finish everyone off, but Ruth steps in front of Dez, saying she’s not going to let them shoot anyone else and she’ll have to kill her first. Just as Dez is about to pull the trigger, she receives a ninja star to the face, courtesy of (who else?) Tony.
But the janky shotgun backfires in Dez’s hands, and then Marshall blasts Chris Senior in the head. Dez stabs Tony repeatedly in the gut, and Ruth fights with Marshall over his handgun. Bullets ricochet off the fireplace and hit Dez in the head, and Ruth knocks Marshall unconscious. Except he’s not. And he fires shots after them as they flee. The stepmom takes off, running down the road.
It’s a chase through the woods with Marshall yelling from behind. They find a boat docked on the shore of a lake and take off. Tony starts fading, and Ruth rows to the other side of the water, where she stashes Tony beneath some foliage and promises to come back for him.
Marshall is close behind and follows in another boat. She falls into a pool of water with a snake who slithers past yet she remains unharmed.
Finally Marshall tracks her down, leaving her vulnerable and weaponless except for the rocks on the ground.
“You do those tattoos yourself? They look fucking stupid.”
“What the fuck do you know? Have you ever eaten cat meat?”
She throws a rock at his forehead and then chest, landing him in the water she previously fell into, and he’s then bitten by the snake on the face. Ruth runs off to return to Tony while Marshall deals with the snake hanging from his cheek.
Fearing she’s lost in the woods, Ruth’s grandmother suddenly appears and points her in the right direction. Ruth carries Tony’s body back across the water in the boat while Marshall presumably dies alone in the woods.
Then the results unfold: The stepmom shakes her head when shown a picture of Ruth as a suspect by the police.
Ruth gets off without any criminal charges, and the detective tells Ruth he and his wife are going to try and work things out.
Ruth continues to go to Tony’s church, but it seems she’s still feeling an emptiness.
While sitting with Trixie and her daughter in her backyard she looks distracted.
“Just be gentle with yourself, alright? You’ve got all the time in the world.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“It’s just something people say.”
Ruth has a vision of Tony encased in a red, smoky swirl … but it turns out it’s actually him, alive, and standing over the grill with her best friend’s husband. Yet we zoom in on Ruth’s disquieted face. Something is still missing.
We’re legitimately led to believe that Tony didn’t make it. The fact that he’s survived, and the group is gathering in a couples’ environment, leads us to conclude that Tony and Ruth are now together, and all should be well. That Ruth is going to church and attempting to better herself. But clearly Ruth is still missing something – dissatisfaction with her job, her life, her lovelife, her spirituality, her fears of death and the universe perhaps still present. And that’s what started us on this crazy goose-chase to begin with – the desire to reclaim what has been taken, or to overcome loss, and to embrace a sense of justice or purpose in the world. The real enemy here isn’t a robber or a rude and inconsiderate stranger, it’s our own selves and confronting and dealing with the losses and emptiness within us.
It’s also important to consider the character of Christian, who, as his father states, has been given every advantage and opportunity possible compared to 99% of the population. A boy who disregards this and chooses to be “bad” according to society contrasts with Ruth, a woman we presume has not been given as many advantages and opportunities – yet both feel dissatisfied and empty.
What did you guys think of I Don’t Feel at Home Here Anymore? Do you have suggestions for videos on streaming for us to discuss? Leave your comments below, and let us know your thoughts!