A disaffected title like “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore” could fit about 75% of Sundance films, but it’s particularly apt for the one that uses it, an off-kilter, low-key comedy with violent mood swings and endearing goofball performances by Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood.
Lynskey plays Ruth Kimke, a hapless, lonely nursing assistant who’s becoming increasingly disappointed in her fellowman. A racist patient; a stranger who spoils a book’s ending; a neighbor who leaves his dog’s poop on her lawn; these and other daily indignities aren’t making Ruth feel bitter, just beaten-down. Why are people so thoughtless?
This weariness comes to a head when Ruth’s home is burglarized in broad daylight, apparently unnoticed by anyone on her block. Disheartened by the police detective’s (Gary Anthony Williams) overt lack of hopefulness of solving the crime, Ruth takes matters into her own hands, making a plaster of the footprint the thief left in her backyard and enlisting the help of Tony (Wood), an oddball neighbor with a rat-tail and an obsession with Japanese fighting and weaponry, to pursue justice.
We’re also introduced to the thief, a bleach-blond teenage drug addict named Christian (Devon Graye), and his cohorts, skeevy Marshall (David Yow) and quietly terrifying Dez (Jane Levy). Christian’s wealthy father (Robert Longstreet) and bored, boozy stepmom (Christine Woods) figure into the story as well, providing Ruth with insight into how some people turn out to be such a-holes.
This isn’t a plot-heavy film, though, and it’s only the last 30 minutes or so that are driven by story. More broadly, it’s about Ruth as a character: dowdy, disheartened, but loosely “normal,” a regular jane just trying to get through this hectic thing called life. A deeply funny and compassionate actress, Lynskey conveys everywoman exasperation in increasingly humorous and relatable ways, becoming intent on extracting not compensation from the thief but a simple acknowledgement that his actions were wrong. She’s assisted by Wood’s purely comic-relief performance as the sincere but buffoonish Tony.
This is the directorial debut of Macon Blair, an actor who’s been in all of Jeremy Saulnier’s films — “Murder Party,” “Blue Ruin,” and “Green Room” — and who shows a similar sensibility here, particularly as it concerns violence and the sudden outbreak thereof. Blair veers wildly from one tone to another as the film takes odd, humorous turns, and not all of these transitions are successful. There is the sense, sometimes, that a non sequitur has been tossed in for sheer randomness (like the cop’s tearful revelation that he is getting divorced), adding clutter rather than clarity. But his dark sense of humor and jaundiced (yet somehow hopeful) view of the world shine through, hinting at greater things to come.
B (1 hr., 37 min.; )