This drive for originality is why the Sundance Film Festival exists. It serves as a platform for the newest, undiscovered filmmakers to share their visions. Visions we hope are challenging, enlightening and exciting.
I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore was awarded the prestigious honor of being the opening night film of the 2017 edition of Sundance. Before the opening credits even roll it becomes very obvious why the programmers wanted this to be the film audiences saw first. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore encapsulates the originality this festival so badly wants to display by creating a movie unlike anything seen in these Park City theaters.
Director and screenwriter Macon Blair, best known for penning the outstanding features Blue Ruin and Green Room, makes his directorial debut here. I Don’t Feel… captures the dark, menacing tones that Blue Ruin and Green Room share, but it is a completely different film.
The film’s greatest strength is the script and the incredible leading performances of Melanie Lynskey (Togetherness, The Intervention) and Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings.) Lynskey has been a Sundance superstar over the past five years with incredible performance after incredible performance every time; last year she won a special Grand Jury prize for acting for her performance in Clea Duvall’s The Intervention. With I Don’t Feel… Lynskey is finally given the vehicle she deserves as the film revolves entirely around her tragic character, Ruth.
Ruth is a depressed nurse struggling with addiction and a deep existential crisis. When someone breaks into her home and steals her laptop and family heirlooms, Ruth finds a sense of motivation she has never experienced before, an urge to find the culprits. As events unfurl Ruth crosses paths with her neighbor Tony, an eccentric, odd loner played perfectly by Wood.
Ruth and Tony become the weirdest version of Cagney and Lacey or Tango and Cash you have ever seen. Ruth’s (very) amateur investigative skills which include cell phone computer locating apps and Plaster of Paris lead them to situations far more dangerous and threatening than they ever could imagine.
The film is impossible to label as a comedy or drama or even as an action thriller. It jumps from tone to tone quickly and enjoyably. The script has hilarious moments thanks to the incredible leads and a very strong supporting cast. The constant tension built from Ruth and Tony’s journey continues to build to a climax no one can ever say they saw coming.
Where this film works on every level is the commitment from its leads to the story and their journey. At times this film wanders into melodrama and near ridiculousness. But, like the films of Shane Black and The Coen Brothers, the audience can’t help but love every turn and development.
It being Macon Blair’s directorial debut there are a few bumps along the way that stem from its severe tone shifts and bumpy rides with these characters. Blair shows tremendous potential and the performances he pulls from his actors, thanks to his script and direction, show he has legitimate talent and promise. But what Blair absolutely knocked out of the park was the originality he brought to this film and story he wanted to tell.
Sundance has made its name by being the breeding ground for the greatest movements in independent film and the launching pad for some of the greatest directors working today. It is always refreshing when a film unveils itself to be unlike anything you have ever seen before. It is why this festival exists and it’s why thousands flock to this ski town in Utah every year. Blair, Lynskey and Wood brought that to us all and couldn’t have started this festival any better.