In 2013, a burglar broke into filmmaker Macon Blair’s New York apartment, stealing his wife’s laptop and grandfather’s antique binoculars.
They were “probably not worth very much, but had great sentimental value to me,” Blair says. Talking to a police detective afterward, “I was like, ‘All right, what do we do next? Fingerprints? Mug shots?’ And he was like, ‘Umm, there’s nothing next, man. This is kind of it.’ ”
The unsolved crime became a springboard for his directorial debut I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, premiering Friday on Netflix, which surprised at last month’s Sundance Film Festival with the top award for fiction films, the dramatic Grand Jury Prize. The movie has gathered 91% positive reviews on RottenTomatoes.com, with critics praising it as “a stellar oddball indie” and “charmingly bizarre.”
Blair’s wish-fulfillment fantasy stars indie favorite Melanie Lynskey as Ruth, a depressed, misanthropic nurse who teams up with her kooky neighbor, Tony (Elijah Wood), to track down her stolen laptop, prescription medication and grandmother’s silverware. What begins as a quirky, dark buddy comedy quickly spirals into a twisty, bloody crime caper, as Ruth and Tony eventually locate the heirloom silver at a sleazy pawn shop and turn up at one of the crook’s homes posing as cops, escalating to a gory, guns-a-blazing showdown.
Writing I Don’t Feel at Home, which Netflix also produced, Blair looked to small-stakes, character-driven crime movies from the 1970s, such as Night Moves and Charley Varrick. He was also inspired by his brutal collaborations with filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier, having starred in his 2014 thriller Blue Ruin and appeared in last year’s Green Room, both of which are equally intense but less absurdist than Blair’s genre-bending feature.
“I really enjoy those wild tonal shifts,” Blair says. “It’s fun for me when something starts in one place and very abruptly shifts into another, like, ‘They’ll be telling this joke in this one (scene) and then the next second, somebody’s going to get their hand blown off.’ ”
Lynskey, who is best known for her comedies with art-house auteurs Joe Swanberg (Happy Christmas) and Mark and Jay Duplass (HBO’s Togetherness), was thrilled by the opportunity to play an action heroine so far removed from the discontented housewives and flailing thirtysomethings she’s often considered for.
It was “incredibly empowering,” Lynskey says. “It was so cathartic for me and just fun. The whole time we were shooting, I was like, ‘I’ve never done anything like this.’ ” Reading the script, “the description of the character was so intriguing. It had nothing to do with what she looks like, it was all about her energy. Quite often you read a script and it’s like, ‘She was a real knockout 10 years ago and now she’s still OK.’ ”
Over the course of the increasingly violent movie, Ruth fires a gun using her teeth, pelts an attacker with rocks and gets her fingers snapped by a peeved shop owner. But the New Zealand actress says her most challenging “stunt” was paddling across a lake to escape a ruthless crime lord.
“I had never really rowed a boat before and it’s hard,” Lynskey says. “That was one thing when I saw the movie, I was like, ‘I don’t look completely ridiculous. That’s a relief.’ ” [Source]