Jared McMillan // Film Critic

Not rated, 93 minutes.
Director: Macon Blair
Cast: Melanie LynskeyElijah WoodJane LevyDavid Yow and Gary Anthony Williams
Streaming exclusively on Netflix today.

Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) has had enough. Her life is a constant malaise, intermittently numbed by drinking, as she deals with a bleak outlook on the world. As she comes home from work, she finds her house broken into, with the thieves taking her laptop, her grandmother’s silver, and her medication. After fearing the police won’t help her, she enlists her neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood) to help her get back what was stolen. Trekking across town will lead them down an unusual path as they search for the truth.

It’s a pretty straightforward plot. However, the journey itself is what makes I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE something special. It is both outlandish and grounded, as the characters are filled with their own quirks. But because they are unabashed in their quirkiness, every word of dialogue is dead pan, and unexpectedly tows the line of a dark comedy. The motives are portrayed in an honest manner to keep a focus on what the character is in its story, but letting them have personality.

One of the key ingredients to making the film flow is Ruth herself. She struggles in her life, and being robbed has put her over the edge. The violation of it drives her, but it does not change who she is as a person. Even when her and Tony become close, there is still a hesitation of actual happiness. Meanwhile Tony is the antithesis of Ruth: He is ready for companionship, has no shame in being extroverted in appearance (he sports a rat tail and 80s metal band t-shirts), and is constantly putting himself in harm’s way for someone he barely knows.

Written and directed by Macon Blair, he spun off from his collaborator Jeremy Saulnier (GREEN ROOM, BLUE RUIN) to a fantastic debut. Winner of the Grand Jury Award at this year’s Sundance Festival, I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE is something original. Sure, there are inspirations that easily draw comparison, like the Coen Brothers, but it is more restrained in presentation and Lynskey is fantastic as she plays Ruth’s inner turmoil without getting too saccharine. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Rated R, 148 minutes.
Director: Martin Koolhoven
Cast: Dakota Fanning, Guy Pearce, Kit Harington and Carice van Houten
Playing today in select theaters and playing On Demand.

Westerns have become grittier as the years go by. Of course, film theorists have long held the notion that films in the Western genre are indicative of the current sociopolitical climate. A more common example of a story would be the evil robber baron coming into a quaint town to exploit it for personal gain. With the recent marches taking place, women have become more vocal in feeling exploited and less equal than the male species. It’s possible to say BRIMSTONE is committing to have itself reflect on the misogyny and degradation of women, even though it fails terribly.

Told in four different chapters, the narrative revolves around Liz (Dakota Fanning) and The Reverend (Guy Pearce), as our heroine has been running from him all her life. As the first chapter ends, The Reverend has wreaked havoc on her life as she flees with her children. Then the second chapter begins with her life before having a family, as we see Liz’s past unfold. The disjointed storytelling does nothing but distract, which is good since the movie never really gets to the point.

There is a lot to process in terms of what the purpose of BRIMSTONE is from a viewing perspective. It’s clearly an indictment against the mistreatment of women, but it also projects harsh mistreatment of women to elevate the material. However, it also falls back on religion to give a reason as to why women are treated this way? It all points to The Reverend, but it doesn’t really fall into place because of the non-traditional narrative. Because there is no clear point, it leads to a lot of unnecessary shots/scenes.

With a run-time of 2 hrs. 28 mins., writer/director Martin Koolhoven is clearly misguided in some of the direction the movie takes. There is no need to show Liz “training” to be a prostitute, or killing kids to add value to the antagonist. The haphazard way of presenting this battle of good and evil is even more disappointing because it has nice cinematography and Fanning/Pearce do well in their roles. There’s a very good movie in there somewhere, but less would have been way more in this case.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction ( as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.