Absurdity, Defined – A Review of I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore

The Netflix original I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is the directorial debut of actor/writer Macon Blair (Blue Ruin, Green Room). It stars Melanie Lynskey (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Heavenly Creatures) and Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Sin City). The story centers around a socially awkward nursing assistant (Lynskey) who after having her home burglarized, engages on a path towards finding those responsible with her obnoxious neighbor (Wood). The film largely purports itself as a social commentary on the different dynamics, social norms and dark detours of modern American society while exploring the despondent melancholy it inspires as the idea of everything changes so rapidly. However, as the film precedes, it moves into tonal chaos that confuses genre and concerns itself with several detours into non-sequitur violence and oddly stated depravity.

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I Don’t Feel At Home in This World Anymore starts out as a Skeleton Twins-esque comedy-drama about loneliness and disconnection with a warm, inviting and colorful aesthetic that matches recent modern coming-of-age dramas such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and The Edge of Seventeen. Seemingly following two socially-awkward “losers” connecting on the basis of their quirks and using real-world quagmires to create a social context while also providing circumstances for the characters to bond in, the film unexpectedly verges into the extremities of the insane echoing completely unrelated genre oddities reminiscent of From Dusk to Till Dawn and Wild at Heart, all at a second’s notice. The resulting events drain the real world events of its reality, infuse an idiotic absurdity to its characters and dilute the narrative themes with unnecessary excess carried over from completely unrelated genre tropes to serve a satirical end unworthy of satire’s usual analytical aims.

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Starting out as one thing, the film slowly becomes another thing entirely and continuously changes it pace, tone and genre style without prompt, smooth transition or tonal consistency. It devolves into unnecessary and inappropriate situations where much of its themes don’t directly resonate while other aspects make very little sense. The interaction of the characters provide some sense of social reality given certain small events in their ordinary lives, but as they push forward into the absurd, they lose that sense of social reality and so do their circumstances, which fall into a stream of ridiculous consciousness. As they render themselves and their lives into the obtuse and totally moronic, the film undercuts the value of its perspective and muddles its social commentary into disjointed incoherence, which it mistakes for satire that even in itself falls short given its inability to focus on the themes at hand, serve them with genre-appropriate excursions or find large enough societal issues worthy of its or our attention.

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As a dramatic undertaking, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore descends into a Twilight Zone-esque cloud of absurdity in which the story forfeits its center, the characters lose their power and the uneven genre/tone further wreck both. The film was so utterly preposterous and ludicrous that if a UFO landed at the end, it would be par for the course given how inane and incongruent  it is. Completely unclear to what it wishes to be, writer/director Macon Blair lacks any idea of how to center a story and pin down its themes. Instead, he follows whatever whims that come to him as if a film or TV show he saw while writing the film inspired him to take the story to a different place 3 or 4 different times. The result is an unwieldly mess. It may be titled I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, but I’m unsure what world these people live in. It’s certainly not this one. I’m glad they don’t feel at home there. Come back to Earth.

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