- Gareth Crook
Buster’s Mal Heart (2017)
I’m keeping with the on the run theme, having just watched The 39 Steps. Buster (Rami Malek) is no Robert Donut though and this is a much more involved film. We first meet Buster or Jonah as he was, looking like a wild hermit, the local cops inform us he’s been on the run for 5 years, breaking into places for sustenance and evading capture. What plays out is essentially what’s lead Buster to this place, but it’s not a smooth ride. He works hard. Works the night shift. Has a young family, goes to Church. There’s niggles though. His wife’s parents that they live with don’t approve of him. He’s a free thinker, motivated, ambitious, there’s a lot of energy in him and Malek taps into it well. I’ve often thought about how hard working nights must be. For Jonah here, well it’s the catalyst for his break with society and reality. Working in the hotel as concierge when there’s little to do but tidy up, he’s on the edge of sleep deprivation with his mind time to wander. An encounter with The Last Free Man (DJ Qualls) brings some excitement. Qualls does paranoid crazy well. He’s a torrent of conspiracy theories, Y2K, CIA Hitlists, the Inversion. This becomes Buster’s new centre, The Inversion, his obsession, the idea of an impending event, one that will deliver him and others that he tries to warn by ranting on local talk radio. Taking refuge in vacant summer homes, his life on the lam is not unpleasant. Hot baths, some personal hygiene care, mixed with what I’m sure he’d denote as warnings of The Inversion, turning family photos upside down and shitting in their cookware. It’s all a bit like The Shining without the focus. This isn’t a great film, but Jonah’s desire to live his life free, away from the system of renting a home, working for the man, that’s interesting and his struggle to make that work for his family, well there’s real substance. There’s a lot going on in Jonah’s head and we only really see things from his perspective, meaning things can get a little fuzzy as he becomes more and more disconnected. It’s intentional though, allowing the viewer to decide what’s real, what’s psychosis, what’s important, what’s the minds way of coping with horrible events. It would be better if it left some things left unsaid, but instead it feels the need to explain and simplify. This is a bit frustrating, but with so many possible interpretations, I guess Sarah Adina Smith who wrote and directed this wanted to throw us a bone. It’s a twister, it’s good, a little confusing, not overly satisfying, somewhat maddening, but highly engaging and the sort of film I could watch a few times, digging further into various theories. At the same time, it can be interpreted as being quite simple. The story of a bloke losing it, breaking down and healing to perhaps only relive the cycle over and over. It’s not for everyone.