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#TIFF16 Review: Buster’s Mal Heart


Directed by: Sarah Adina Smith
Starring: Rami Malek, DJ Qualls, Kate Lyn Sheil


An eccentric mountain man is on the run from the authorities, surviving the winter by breaking into empty vacation homes in a remote community. Regularly calling into radio talk shows — where he has acquired the nickname “Buster” — to rant about the impending dangers of Y2K, he is haunted by visions of being lost at sea, and memories of his former life as a family man.

– via TIFF

Buster’s Mal Heart was strange, quirky and confusing, but I absolutely loved it. It was one of those films where the end credits started rolling and I sat there wondering what exactly it was that I just saw. It definitely falls into the same category of films that I would love to see for a second, third and fourth time to properly dissect and understand completely. You know, movies like Donnie Darko, Looper, Shutter Island etc., where you know you loved it and you know you just witnessed something great, but you can’t quite comprehend it all right away.

I’m not going to lie to you, I picked Buster’s Mal Heart as one of my “must-see” films at the Toronto International Film Festival this year because I’m low-key in love with Rami Malek. I’m not talking Mr. Robot Rami Malek (although let’s be honest, Mr. Robot is my favourite show on television right now), I’m talking Night at the Museum Rami Malek. I had a crush on King Ahkmenrah for quite a long time after that one. So yes, I chose a movie because of my love for an actor…that’s not so terrible is it? It wasn’t until after I had bought my ticket for the film that I even did some research to find out what the film was all about.


Buster’s Mal Heart tells the story of a mountain man, nicknamed Buster by the local authorities, who is known to break into vacation homes in order to stay alive during the winter. The film goes through flashbacks to when Buster, whose real name is Jonas, was your typical hardworking family man that did everything he could to provide for his wife and young daughter. We learn more about his relationship with his wife and daughter through flashbacks from before he became the mountain man that he is currently. We learn about the events that led to his downfall. As you learn more about him as the film goes on, you begin to think you understand exactly what happened…that is until you get thrown a curveball towards the end of the film.

The idea behind this film is unique and creative. I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard of anything similar to this storyline and concept before. While certain moments did remind me of other films, the overall theme and story was completely unique. I had never seen anything from director and writer Sarah Adina Smith before Buster’s Mal Heart, but I am definitely going to look into her other films immediately.


As mentioned earlier, my main reason for choosing this film as one to see at TIFF this year was because of my love for Rami Malek. As expected, he did a phenomenal job as Jonas. Throughout the flashbacks, he portrayed a loving and caring father, who was ultimately just so exhausted after working many night shifts, absolutely wonderfully. He also portrayed the damaged mountain man perfectly. He created a perfect blend of crazy and comedy as the audience definitely had a few chuckles throughout the film. His character did remind me a little bit of Mr. Robot’s Elliot in certain moments though and I really hope that Rami Malek doesn’t start to become typecast. He’s such a talented actor and I really hope he doesn’t get stuck portraying similar characters over and over again.

Can we just take a moment to talk about the little girl, Sukha Belle Potter, who plays Jonas’ daughter Roxy? Oh my god, she was the cutest little girl, but the father/daughter relationship between her and Rami Malek was perfect. I completely believed that she could actually be his child. She delivered her lines perfectly, even though I feel a lot of them were probably ad libbed. It really felt as though the other actors were just talking to her normally and used her real responses as the dialogue. This little girl needs to be in more films ASAP!


I can already tell that Buster’s Mal Heart is going to be on my mind for quite a while. I’m already itching to watch it for a second time and see if I can pick up on the little things that I may have missed the first time around. It is definitely a film that makes you think and question what it was exactly that you just saw. Buster’s Mal Heart is a beautiful film with a fantastic soundtrack, fantastic cinematography and memorable performances.

*UPDATE: Rami Malek just won an Emmy for his portrayal of Elliot in Mr. Robot! Congratulations Rami!

4 thoughts on “#TIFF16 Review: Buster’s Mal Heart

    1. Yay!! I’m glad my review persuaded you! The synopsis kind of had me debating whether or not to see it, but I decided I needed to give Rami a chance and it turned out to be pretty great! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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