With Melanie Lynskey in the Spotlight, You Need to Watch Her Unrelenting Netflix Thriller
Six years later, this Netflix original feels more relevant than ever.
We live in a world full of injustice, and it’s only getting worse. Unfortunately, most of us can’t afford the ninja training and high-tech weapons necessary to become a vigilante superhero like Batman, but one Netflix movie presents a slightly more attainable — and much scarier — alternative.
Released in 2017 as a Netflix Original, I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore tells the story of Ruth (Melanie Lynskey), a mild-mannered nurse who takes matters into her own hands after her home is burgled by what turns out to be a cult-like group of criminals. With Lynskey back in the zeitgeist thanks to her scene-stealing performance in The Last of Us and the imminent debut of Yellowjackets Season 2, there’s never been a better time to revisit this overlooked thriller.
Here’s why I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore is still worth watching in 2023, and what you need to know before your next movie night.
When Lynskey’s Ruth comes home to find her house ransacked (the stolen goods include some medication, her laptop, and her grandmother’s silverware), the first thing she does is call the cops. Unsurprisingly, they’re not much help, even blaming her for allegedly leaving her door unlocked. So she decides to find out if her neighbors saw anything suspicious, and that’s when Ruth meets Tony.
Played by Elijah Wood, Tony possesses a kind of nerdy overconfidence that’s verging on toxic in 2023 but probably felt refreshing in 2017. To offer just one example of what we’re getting into, Tony shows up at a gunfight wielding ninja stars. Unsurprisingly, he instantly offers to help Ruth in any way he can. (Fun fact: I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore marks a reunion for Wood and Lynskey, who both starred in the Cartoon Network cult classic series Over the Garden Wall.)
“It’s just such an original movie that felt very honest with itself.”
With Tony’s help, Ruth finds her laptop, which leads her to a second-hand store where she finds her silver and also identifies the thief (actually a gang of young thieves led by a creepy older man). From there, I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore descends into blood-soaked chaos. Ruth refuses to slow down — and the movie is just as unrelenting as its protagonist — but as Lynskey noted in a 2017 interview with The PlayList, the film’s many twists and turns never feel jarring or out of place.
“It felt so seamless in its tonal shifts, the suspense kept growing and the character really spoke to me,” she said. “It’s just such an original movie that felt very honest with itself.”
Still, if you’re uncomfortable with excessive gore, dislocated fingers, or snakes, this probably isn’t the movie for you.
When I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore came out, it was a big deal that Netflix had bankrolled an indie film out of Sundance. Six years later, that’s pretty much a given, but while the movie’s origin story no longer stands out, its central message has only become more powerful.
Speaking to Esquire, writer-director Macon Blair (who also plays a small role) described his own writing process, and how the current events of 2016 seeped into the script.
“I think as I was writing it, it was just sort of in the background, the TV—not literally as I'm writing, but just in life the TV is on and your phone is on and it seems to be this cascade of examples of shittiness. I'm sure I'm not the only person who is exposed to all of that and starts to feel like things are crumbling. Maybe they are or maybe they are not, but it certainly feels that way.”
In 2023, the world doesn’t feel any less crumbly. If anything, the systems we rely on to survive are weaker than ever. The title might not exactly roll off the tongue, but “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore” might as well be the catchphrase of the 2020s.
As for that bonkers ending, which is worth experiencing for yourself, Blair offered an intriguing comparison:
“I really wanted the movie to have the feeling of something like Repo Man, where it's crazy and people get shot, and it's berserk, but at the end of the movie, you don't come out of the theater feeling punished or super bummed out. There's enough mayhem and craziness in the last fifteen minutes to sort of satisfy its needs as a genre movie. It delivers some splatter and some gore and everything like that, but I just didn't want the emotional tone at the very end when people are walking out of the theater to be a depressed one, to be a mournful one. I wanted it to feel rock and roll and fun. To me there was never an option other than to have him survive, and to suggest that Ruth might be, if not totally turned around, at least a little bit better off than when we first met her.”
Bookmark that quote and revisit it after you’ve watched the movie. It may just put the ending in an entirely new light.