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Tribeca Review: “Buster’s Mal Heart” (2016) ★★★


I had to give a second round of thought for Sarah Adina Smith’s psychological thriller BUSTER’S MAL HEART starring Rami Malik (Mr. Robot) in the lead. It’s not that I disliked it, but rather I tried really hard to find what aspect of the film I liked the most. Sometimes, or most of the time, it made no sense at all. You have a married man with a little daughter. He has a job in a hotel. Seems nothing should bother him at all. And why should it? But no, he had some unknown and invisible mental issues right from the beginning, which the appearing of a homeless man triggers in the most finest way. But that exact ‘finest way’ is what I tried to digest and justify the need of telling this story at all.…

A man with a long beard running from authorities finds a temporary place to stay at an empty vacation home. Eating, taking shower, turning the pictures on the wall upside down is his known signature. Despite being a person who does not harm anyone, the authorities treat him as very dangerous. But who that man is and why he’s on the run is what will be provided by him through flashbacks or memories he won’t be so sure to trust or not. Due to that, even the viewer will be left alone as Buster himself tries to figure out everything that happened or will happen throughout the journey….

Buster or Jonah is a married man with a little daughter. He works in a hotel located in a remote part of Montana. He has dreams of having a prosperous life. He even says to his wife:  ‘I don’t want you neither me to live on rent every month. Doing that, we’re becoming the slave of the system.’ The man, however, does not realize, at least in that moment, the power of his words. When he goes to work again, through his memories we find him tired at the workplace as a homeless man who calls himself as The Last Free Man (DJ Qualls). But before that, he watches a program at work called Maintenance Awareness Program with a subject matter as if their main purpose was to hypnotize the viewers.

In the meantime, with the look of Robinson Crusoe, Buster or Jonah is on the boat, who asks God to help him by taking his life away. As the events that occurs ten days before the authority starts chasing him down, it won’t be clear up until closer to the end of the film why Jonah or Buster has some issues or it’s his split personality that does insane things while the other one is dreaming?

You see, the story itself had a great concept. To complicate it was truly unnecessary. But Sarah Adina Smith seems to have felt comfortable to challenge the viewer, which I must say, only a few will understand. Again, Smith’s movie is not bad at all. But it requires a few looks before jumping to conclusion. Not because it’s hard to follow or something was missing, it is just the story itself that was built in a way to confuse the viewer even long after the film ends. Rami Malik in the lead stretches himself out as a dramatic actor, and I must say, does an outstanding job. As he tries to show his potential, through him we learn Jonah’s potential as well. But the way it appears is that it won’t be so visible for the majority of the audience.

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About Ulkar Alakbarova (1007 Articles)
My name is Ulkar Alakbarova. A wonderful name, is it not? I come from the exotic land of Azerbaijan but now I live in the hub of Hollywood North – Toronto, Canada. How lucky I am to be able to enjoy and indulge in my favourite avocation of watching movies. Movies of every genre are screened here in Toronto. There are black and white classics, avant garde, independently produced, and of course, newly released movies for all to enjoy. Let me share this treasure of entertainment with you. Read my thoughts and opinions then let me know if you agree.

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