BUSTER’S MAL HEART (2016) is an artsy, surreal mystery about a homeless man named Jonah (Rami Malek) surviving in the mountains by breaking into empty vacation homes. He suffers flashbacks to the family he lost and has visions of being lost at sea.
In the flashbacks, we see Jonah working a barely-making-it night-shift job at a hotel while living with his wife and baby at her parent’s house. Malek shines in portraying a man trying to do the right thing but questioning his life and silently panicking. When a strange drifter shows up (a creepy showing by DJ Qualls) spouting about the Inversion and end of the world, Jonah is alternately hostile to and attracted to the man and his bizarre beliefs, eventually adopting them as his own when he becomes a crazy drifter himself. As the “mountain man,” as the locals call him, Jonah lives in empty vacation homes and calls local radio stations to rant. All while Jonah survives on a boat in the middle of the sea.
This is a really mind-bending film that will likely leave you with more questions than answers. Is the Inversion real? Is the drifter real? What really happened to Jonah’s family? Are the scenes in the boat the past, an alternate present, or a purgatory future? The film is like a puzzle daring you to figure it out.
Overall, I found BUSTER’S MAL HEART a bit slow but well told, excellently acted, and very intriguing. It’s real trip of a film that will have you theorizing and wondering, though I doubt there’s a single right answer as to what it all means.