HomeGATE: 3 film festival favourites now avalable at home

by Andrew Parker

In this edition of our bi-weekly home viewing column we take a look at the buzzworthy dark comedy I don’t feel at home in this world anymore., the critically acclaimed British horror thriller The Girl with All the Gifts, and one of the most underrated Canadian films of last year, the low-fi How Heavy This Hammer; all of which made big waves at festivals on the festival circuit this past year.


I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.

Premiering at Sundance earlier this year, I don’t feel at home in this world anymore. marks the feature directorial debut of actor Macon Blair, best known for his collaborations with filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier in Blue Ruin and Green Room. Heavily indebted to the work of the Coen Brothers, it’s an off-beat crime saga involving a pair of misfits on a mission of revenge. Like most debut features, I don’t feel at home in this world anymore. wears its influences on its sleeve and sometimes feels a bit unwieldy, but on the whole it’s a darkly entertaining and humorous romp.

Melanie Lynskey – one of the most underrated character actors working today – stars as Ruth, a stressed out, lonely, and borderline depressed nurse who get in a funk whenever the world around her presents itself as a harsh, boorish, uncaring place. She snaps when her home is robbed and the police seem reticent to help find the culprit. All that was stolen was her laptop and an old silverware set she got from her grandmother, but she becomes fixated on not only getting her property back, but confronting the thief to chew them out on principal. For help, Ruth turns to Tony (Elijah Wood), an awkward neighbour who loves martial arts, but isn’t particularly good at them. Together, they work their way through a chain of people to bring them closer to the thieves, but the closer they get to them the further they go in over their heads and into dangerously deadly territory.

Shades of Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and Burn After Reading about at every turn here, and Blair doesn’t really elevate or enhance any previously established formulas on how to make a screwball American noir. The result is a fitfully engaging, reasonably twisty bit of entertainment that builds to a violent crescendo that feels earned instead of tacked on. While Blair has studied and learned some of the Coens’ best techniques in terms of balancing humour and drama, he hasn’t learned their sense of pacing, and the film drags more than it should.

But even through those bits that drag, the committed work being put in by Lynskey and Wood picks up any slack that Blair might leave hanging. The film is okay, but the performances here are excellent.

I don’t feel at home in this world anymore is now available to stream exclusively on Netflix.


The Girl with All the Gifts

Scottish filmmaker Colm McCarthy’s big screen adaptation of Mike Carey’s bestselling novel The Girl with All the Gifts (with a script penned by the book’s author) delivers not only a novel twist on the sometimes tiresome post-apocalyptic zombie drama, but also a nuanced and thoughtful coming of age story.

It’s sometime in the future and the UK has become overrun with zombies as a result of a strange fungal outbreak that creates undead monsters craving human blood. It affects adults and children differently, however, and a group of young children are kept locked up in a top secret military bunker. They have the same bloodlust as the zombies, which inconveniently gets switched on and off when they smell blood or a human gets too close, but they also have the capacity for rational thought and reasoning. One of these children is the bright young Melanie, played expertly by newcomer Sennia Nanua in a memorable performance. She’s the apple of her kindly teacher’s eye, loathed by a biased seargeant, and seen by a crusading doctor as a key to curing the outbreak and restoring humanity. When the military outpost falls at the hands of a large scale attack, the teacher (Gemma Arterton), the soldier (Paddy Consadine), and the doctor (Glenn Close) go on the run with Melanie in an effort to regroup and figure things out in the harsh, dangerous outside world; a place where Melanie might be more help to her adult mentors than they are to her.

What could have been a lazy retreading of Day of the Dead with an articulate young girl instead of a semi-coherent middle aged zombie escalates with great care and nuance into more than just a survival thriller. A pointed metaphor for growing up and becoming your own person, The Girl with All the Gifts (which made its Canadian debut at TIFF last year in the Midnight Madness programme) grows ever more poignant, heartfelt, and exciting as the world around Melanie gets bigger. It’s not particularly terrifying, but it does build to a nicely bittersweet conclusion, and Nanua has expert chemistry with each of her hig profile co-stars. It could have been empty entertainment, but kudos to McCarthy and Carey for giving their audience something a lot smarter and deeper.

The Girl with All the Gifts is now available on VOD, and can also be seen in select Canadian cities theatrically.


How Heavy This Hammer

With his second feature, How Heavy This Hammer (one of the three nominees for the Toronto Film Critics Association’s coveted Rogers Best Canadian Film Award), Toronto filmmaker Kazik Radwanski returns with a pointed, realistic look at mid-life crises. It’s a tragi-comic look at stunted adulthood and one man’s search for seemingly unattainable happiness that feels almost uncomfortably like a documentary in its scope and transition. This one didn’t get much theatrical play outside of Toronto and scattered festival appearances, but it’s definitely worth seeking out now.

Erwin (Erwin Van Cotthem), a middle aged family man, has firmly entered his mid-life crisis. He desperately tries to relate to his two young sons, who don’t nearly appreciate his favourite MMORPG as much as Erwin obsessively does. He’s all but stopped trying to connect to his increasingly frustrated wife (Kate Ashley). He loves his dogs more than the humans in his life because they don’t expect too much of him. He’s prone to drunkenly toppling out of hot tubs after a few too many Old Speckled Hens just to seem like the life of the party. He seemingly wants to be left alone at all costs, but he also still wants acceptance and love from those around him regarding his decision, wanting affection and tenderness only on his own terms. Erwin carries with him a sense of entitlement and shows petulance towards anything that might require him to make some sort of actual effort in his day to day life.

It’s an unflinching and uncompromised portrait of average, modern, middle-aged masculinity, with a great deal of empathy and very little judgment. Clocking in at a compact 75 minutes, How Heavy This Hammer delivers a potent and intimate character story without any filler or necessary asides. It’s a warts and all portrait of a man subtly sabotaging his own life that isn’t trying to create a sense of false hope. It’s a formative moment in adult development and maturation to far too often gets handled in cynical, forced fashion. We don’t fully know in the end how things will turn out for Erwin, but Radwanski has crafted a sly cautionary tale for those who might be headed down the same path.

How Heavy This Hammer is now available on iTunes.

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