Directors who feel true tenderness for misfits and oddballs will always be in short supply. That’s just one reason to take note of I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, the feature debut of writer-director Macon Blair (also an actor, as seen in Blue Ruin). Melanie Lynskey stars as Ruth, a depressed nurse’s assistant whose mood sinks further when a thief breaks into her home and makes off with, among other things, her grandmother’s silver. The cops are no help, and Ruth sets out to find the culprits, enlisting the aid of local weirdo Tony (Elijah Wood), a high-strung amateur martial-arts expert.
What follows is a lively, waggish and sometimes perversely violent caper, reminiscent of Something Wild–era Jonathan Demme. Blair has a gift for the absurd, but his true secret weapon is the wondrous Lynskey. Even Ruth’s neuroses have a pixie-dust lightness, like a thing you could catch in a butterfly net. Once you can laugh at the worst that can happen, you’re on your way to coping with it.
This appears in the February 27, 2017 issue of TIME.