Who are we? Where are we? Why are we here? What are we? Life’s eternal questions that, occasionally, a filmmaker will attempt to tackle, albeit, it’s not something we’ve seen for a while.
Buster’s Mal Heart is written and directed by Sarah Adina Smith in her second writer/directorial stint, following on from 2014’s The Midnight Swim.
Buster’s Mal Heart starts at the end. We see a bedraggled Buster, Rami Malek (he of Mr. Robot fame), running from a whole bunch of cops who are shooting at him. We don’t know why.
From here the story begins to reveal, piece by piece, what happened to Buster that has lead him to this predicament.
It’s a story of DJ Qualls (The Man In The High Castle (TV), Road Trip) turning up at the hotel Buster works at and claiming to be ‘The Last Free Man’.
He won’t give his name and he doesn’t have any ID but begins telling Buster about the impending dangers of Y2K and something called ‘the inversion’.
Buster, who’s been working nights for some time and is extremely sleep deprived, starts to believe Qualls and, weirdly, draws him into a way of boosting their cash-flow by stealing from the wealthy, occasional visitors to the hotel.
Bit by bit Buster’s life is revealed to us and, bit by bit, it feels like Buster’s mind is unravelling the more we find out. It’s as if Adina Smith makes things clearer for us, but murkier for her protagonist.
That’s the key element of Buster’s Mal Heart, you never quite know what exactly is going on. Everyone will have their own theories, many will hate the fact they have to draw one.
We get elements of god and religion, sci-fi and even some head-scratching Fight Club-esq twists for good measure.
Throughout it all Rami Malek performs admirably as Buster. He takes us through a gamut of emotions, convincingly if not a little too quietly at times.
Qualls is wonderful as the passionate, mysterious stranger. Is he thrown in to tell us, the viewers, what’s going on or to throw us off the scent? Or to throw Buster off the scent?
By the time Buster becomes an infamous, bearded, mountain man, phoning into radio shows and screaming about the impending inversion, all bets are off as to how this is going to pan out.
Buster’s Mal Heart is a wonderfully written, brilliantly directed second feature from Adina Smith. Sure, it’s not without its problems.
The pacing is a little off at times and, even once the credits roll, you won’t be completely sure what you’ve just seen.
However, there are some truly stunning scenes, non-more so then the Christmas Dinner scene. It’s worth seeing the film just for this if nothing else.
Who’d have thought three-people round a dinner table could be simultaneously uncomfortable, darkly-funny and outright strange all at the same time?
Go into Buster’s Mal Heart with a clear head, an open mind and be prepared to do some head-scratching.