A film like Buster’s Mal Heart is unusual to say the least. Director Sarah Adina Smith picked the perfect leading man, in the form of the unconventional Emmy winner, Rami Malek.
Like Smith’s debut film The Midnight Swim, Buster’s Mal Heart is a profound mystery. However, unlike The Midnight Swim, we are taken on a journey following two timelines although, sometimes it feels like we are following three. When we are first introduced to Buster he is racing through a snowy Montana forest as police officers shoot at him. We later find out that he has been breaking into houses in the area, calling radio talk shows ranting about the Y2K.
Yet, before Buster becomes the crazy man of the mountains he was known as Jonah. The complete opposite of Buster, Jonah is a straight edge concierge of a small hotel. He has a wife (Kate Lyn Sheil) and an energetic daughter (Sukha Belle Potter). He and his wife work hard so they can one day move out of Jonah’s in-laws house and build a self sufficient home for themselves to raise their child in.
The reason for Jonah’s transformation into Buster, as well as what happened to his are the driving questions in a surreal narrative. At one point Jonah meets a man (DJ Qualls) who is convinced the Y2K will bring about the end of society causing a greater manifestation he calls “the great inversion.” The unnamed man checks into the hotel and invites himself into Jonah’s life.
To make things worse Jonah/Buster have recurring visions of being adrift at sea in a lifeboat. The question there is, whether or not the man at sea a vision from a dream or a distant memory? As Buster tries to decipher between reality and the man at sea he comes to realize that he is no longer one person he is two people in polar opposite worlds, shockingly similar to the explanation of “the great inversion” given to him by the unnamed man back when Buster was Jonah.
The performance by the entire cast is flawless from young Potter who speaks in both English and Spanish throughout the film to Malek who’s mental awareness is questioned throughout the entirety of the film with an air of charm and capability of being unusually creepy all at once.
This distinctly niche project is just a glimpse at what both Malek and Smith are capable of. If you get the opportunity to see it, it’s certainly worth hunting down.