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Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) is a nursing assistant having a bad day in the depressingly hilarious Netflix offering I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. We have little trouble sympathizing with her, since she clearly just wants people to be decent to each other. But that’s a hard sell at the best of times, and it seems even harder in a time when people can build careers out of being jerks.
We only empathize with her more as her bad day gets worse. First, a patient dies in front of her, and her truthfulness about her very racist last words leads to a little trouble at work. When she tries to relax with her favorite fantasy series, a fellow fan decides to ruin the big twist. But the cherry on top comes when she gets home and discovers she’s been robbed. And the police seem rather apathetic about it, even when she finds out where some of her missing property is.
Luckily, she befriends a fellow oddball named Tony (a hilarious Elijah Wood), and they decide to go confront the thieves. Soon, Ruth starts to enjoy the feeling of taking her power back, and she and Tony decide to up the stakes and take their investigation further, putting her right in the crosshairs of the people who robbed her. And they’re living proof that not all outcasts are lovable.
Writer-director Macon Blair is practically a virtuoso in how all this unfolds, which is in a surprisingly humorous fashion, even when Tony and Ruth’s misadventures lead to broken bones, abduction, hostage-taking, and a body count. It also helps that the cast is fantastic, with the winning banter between Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood nearly turning I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore into a deranged romantic comedy. Other standouts include Christine Woods of The Walking Dead and The Odd Couple as a seemingly dippy housewife, and Jane Levy (the Evil Dead remake and Don’t Breathe), who manages to terrify in a role that is mostly wordless.
The only time the film feels a bit too good to be true is ironically at the end, where it’s a little unclear just how Ruth and Tony get out somewhat unscathed. I Don’t Feel doesn’t sugarcoat the reality that Ruth is still left to deal with, but the lasting impression is that life’s harshness can be bearable if we mange to find the right (that is, healthy) coping mechanisms.