Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the dark comedy/science fiction feature BUSTER'S MAL HEART by writer/director Sarah Adina Smith. To best describe the story, I will turn to a slightly modified IMDB plot summary:
"A family man's chance encounter with a conspiracy-obsessed drifter leaves him on the run from the police and an impending event known as The Inversion."
The opening scene was so bright and buoyant that I was fairly certain I was going to like this film just based on the beginning. In a surprising twist, the scene immediately following was a dark manhunt that stood in stark contrast to what came before. Although I did not realize it at the time, this was a pretty accurate representation of the movie I was about to watch as there was a constantly shifting tone depending upon which timeline we were seeing.
Oh, right, I probably should have mentioned that as well; the narrative style is non-linear. Granted, it is a fairly easy to follow format based upon the appearance/actions of our lead, but it does constantly jump around to three different stories. One of the threads proves to be a bit difficult to pin down in the timeline, though by the end it is made clear where it fits into the overall scheme. I realized that this story of storytelling is not going to be for everyone, but there are so many good things happening on screen that the ride is entirely worthwhile.
First off, the performances are incredibly spot-on bringing a warmth and reality to the family dynamics. Rami Malek brings so much heart to Buster that it is almost hard watching some of the scenes because we have an inkling of what is inevitably going to occur. As he spirals out of control, he perfectly encapsulates the idea of a man who means no one any harm, but would rather just be left alone.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we have DJ Qualls as the man with no name who gives a bombastic performance that is sure to make audience members sit up and take notice. Qualls spits out dialogue before we can even begin to process what he is saying as if he is trying to convince everyone that he is correct, before we can examine his logic. When he is finally brought low, there is a tragedy to his portrayal that makes us truly empathize with this self-proclaimed scorned prophet.
The rest of the supporting cast was equally solid, but the role of Roxy, as portrayed by child actress Sukha Belle Potter, is sure to wow audiences. It has been a while since I saw a young actress so capture my attention that I kept envisioning the great career she must have ahead. This is such a performance and I honestly look forward to seeing her in more pictures. Her relationship with Buster proves to be the emotional linchpin of the entire piece, so getting such a dynamic performance out of such a young child is sure to make her the talking point of many audience members.
From a stylistic standpoint, this features is full of some wonderfully engaging visuals. From the sunny opening to the darker scenes of isolation, the framing and composition are incredibly compelling. Heck, even the pool scene where the camera lingered just above or just under the water drew my eye in ways that might have seemed standard, yet they took on a life of their own. There is a sure handedness present that lets us know that through the splintered timeline is daunting, they will keep us entertained right up until the last frame.
The finale itself left me scratching my head a bit, wondering what I had just seen take place. There were certainly plenty of clues dropped along the way, yet in the moment I had not given them as much notice as I should. After some thought, the various pieces clicked into place and I feel as if I have a fairly good interpretation of the proceedings. That being said, even if I am entirely wrong, I was so enthralled with the journey that I would not care if I missed some of the finer details.
All in all, this is a dynamic piece that throws a lot at the audience, but gives us plenty of reasons to keep watching. The performances alone are worth the cost of entry while the style tickles the retinas and keeps us stimulated right up until the bonkers finale. Fans of mind bending science fiction like PRIMER (2004) or artistically lush movies like ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004) need to see this picture as quickly as possible.
The Creeping Craig