BUSTER'S MAL HEART Review: 8 out of 10 (The Inversion is Coming)
BUSTER'S MAL HEART is a film that sort of defies a genre description. Written and directed by Sarah Adina Smith. It stars Rami Malek, DJ Qualls, and Kate Lyn Sheil, it could be described as a mystery, an enigmatic thriller, or even a supernatural melodrama. I would describe it as a film that made me think to the point of making my head hurt--and I mean that in the best way possible.
Buster (Malek) is a strange bearded mountain man who is alone in Montana and surviving the winter by breaking into empty vacation homes scattered in the mountains. Set in the time just before Y2K, Buster seems obsessed with the upcoming turn of the millennium. The film catalogs haunting visions of him lost at sea, as well as memories of his former life as a family man. Buster was once Jonah, a hard-working husband and father whose job as the night-shift concierge at a hotel has taken its toll on his psyche. It is a chance encounter with a conspiracy-obsessed drifter (DJ Qualls) that changes the course of Jonah's life into the solitary Buster he has become. As the story progresses, the film gradually pieces together the events that fractured his life.
Much like DONNIE DARKO or even TAKE SHELTER, this film is a supernatural think piece that questions the reality of both the viewer and the characters onscreen. Though some might be scared off by that description thinking the film is a mess to navigate--the film has a clear narrative that does open itself up to a lot of interpretive theories and ideas. Malek turns in a fantastic performance here as a man slowly becoming unhinged...or is he? At one moment a loving father playing with his infant daughter or doting husband to his wife Marty. The next moment he is a wild-eyed madman spouting conspiracies into the air and questioning the very fiber of the universe. DJ Qualls is flat out creepy here as a sort of conspiracy muse for Jonah, pushing his madness beyond the brink.
The film is chock full of plenty of images, symbols, and discourse to have cinema sleuths giddy in their seats. But even for all those parts of the film that beg for lobby conversations and debates afterward, the film imbues enough empathy for Jonah and his plight for even a casual viewer to appreciate. BUSTER'S MAL HEART is one of those movies destined to be watched and re-watched to discover all its secrets and meanings. And though that offers value, it is the performances here that shine. For those filmgoers looking for an indie gem, seek out BUSTER'S MAL HEART.