Buster’s Mal Heart

Buster is a mountain man on the run from authorities. He survives the cold winters by breaking into vacation homes and living off the spoils. He’s pursued by the police but also by flashbacks to his prior, family-man life, and by persistent daydreams of being adrift at sea. He calls radio shows to warn others about the impending “Inversion”.

The film, which eschews conventional story-telling, seems to have three distinct time lines, if I may call them that. 1. Buster (Rami Malek) as an overworked father and husband. He works as the night manager at a creepy hotel and the shift work is killing him. He lives with his in-laws, which might be killing him too, come to think of it. At the MV5BMzgzNjFhMmUtZDNmYy00N2M2LThiMzMtYjkwMjA4NjlkZjIwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUxMjc1OTM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,735_AL_hotel he encounters a drifter (DJ Qualls) begging for a room for the night, and this encounter will change the course of Buster’s life forever. 2. With matted hair and a dirty beard, Buster’s mind appears to be cracked. He lives off grid, barely surviving, almost no semblance to his former self. 3. He is half-starved, lost at sea in a small rowboat, sending letters in bottles overboard. We don’t know how long this has gone on for.

How many, if any, of these time lines is real? Are they manifestations of his wormhole conspiracy theory, or the product of a mind broken with grief and guilt, or just the insomniac’s daymares? That’s for you to figure out, without much help from director Sarah Adina Smith, who is perfectly comfortable with an audience full of head-scratchers and what-the-fuckers. In fact, she’s going to throw in a whole bunch of biblical allusions just to fuck with you some more.

One thing’s for sure: Rami Malek is ready to be a leading man. His minimalist style still conveys mental instability and eccentricity across all timelines. He contributes to the film maker’s ruse by making each version of Buster equally believe and unbelievable. All three feel authentic but all three cannot be. He gives away nothing. And in the end, if you’re going to enjoy this movie at all, you’ll have to be comfortable with that, with not getting any answers. By having bold questions shoved in your face and living with just discarding them. Is any version of Buster a real person, or are they all just metaphors for disillusionment? Or am I, the viewer, the one who’s disillusioned?

 

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13 thoughts on “Buster’s Mal Heart

  1. Christopher

    “He survives the cold winters by breaking into vacation homes and living off the spoils.”
    This sounds fascinating–I love films that put this much trust in the audience and on an unrelated note I think I just found a new calling in life.

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  2. Lara/Trace

    Hey Jay, there is a book Clam Lake Papers about a guy who did break into a cabin in northern Wisconsin and didn’t pay for rent or food but left them a note and wrote a book (anonymous of course). Weird this isn’t catching on more in the abandoned resort towns off-season.

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  3. Liz A.

    Curious. I may or may not like this one. It has some interesting elements.

    Rami Malek is a leading man. He’s the lead on Mr. Robot. And he’s playing Freddy Mercury in an upcoming movie.

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  4. Snoskred

    I will never, ever forget one particular scene in this movie involving a stock pot. I wrote on my blog at the time – I think there was life before seeing that scene, and life afterwards, and the two are not the same thing.

    I also said – I loved this movie even though I am – like Buster and Jonah, completely and totally lost. Am I floating in a boat, out at sea, covered in frogs? I DON’T KNOW. 🙂

    Perhaps we are all out there in that boat, in an alternate reality. 😉

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