This week’s film asks important questions, such as whether those who walk around in their underwear are the most free among us. Also if the universe is shaped like an apple or a sphincter. For real.
Buster’s Mal Heart
A mountain man who breaks into people’s vacation homes to survive cold winters has lived a very sad and rather non-linear life.
Buster isn’t having the best New Year’s ever. A fugitive running from the police for as yet undisclosed reasons, he seeks refuge in a cave in the woods. It doesn’t take long for us to learn that Buster has been living off of the land for years, surviving winter by breaking in to empty vacation homes. As New Year’s approaches, he makes increasingly erratic phone calls to local radio stations warning everyone that the inversion is coming. Though his crimes are relatively low-level, he is nonetheless considered armed and dangerous by the authorities.
Of course, this isn’t what Buster’s life was always like. Before his mountain man lifestyle, Buster’s name was Jonah, and he considered himself something of a worker drone. As a concierge, Jonah works overnight on low pay and little sleep. He dreams of buying a remote piece of land to live independently with his family. The current situation for the family is less than ideal—Jonah, his wife, and daughter live with his parents-in-law, who throw a lot of shade his way.
Things start to change when Jonah encounters a stranger at the hotel who approaches him in a suspiciously Christian-Slater-in-Mr. Robot kind of way. The stranger lives off the grid, with no ID or credit card, but needs a room for the night. Jonah initially denies this request, but finds himself listening to the stranger’s ideas. The stranger warns Jonah about Y2K and the inversion and proclaims himself the last free man. Instead of backing away slowly, Jonah eventually agrees to let the man stay.
Though Jonah loves his family, he feels something is wrong with his heart and fears becoming a slave to the system. He begins to buy into the stranger’s odd, conspiratorial perspective that the universe is shaped like a sphincter. When Y2K brings about the inversion, people will dive into that sphincter (from my understanding…?).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, his home life begins to crack, his professional life has been soul-crushing for a long time, and Jonah begins to have very dark hallucinations. What pushed him over the edge to become a roving mountain man? And will his history of minor crimes become all too serious when an elderly couple returns to find Buster in their house?
3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads
I’m not sure I understood this one 100%, and there were times I wasn’t sure if this was supposed to be funny? Having a sphincter-shaped universe seems like more of a comedy element, but most of this film’s content is decidedly heavier.
Rami Malek is great as our conflicted and complex lead, who has so many more layers than we realize at first. It’s hard not to feel sympathy for him even as [SPOILER] he does incredibly horrifying things. We let the narrative convince us pretty easily that Buster is a victim even as we see a violent, unstable side of his personality. The saddest part of this film is that he is a victim–but he also victimizes others. This film unexpectedly tackles mental health issues in a way that doesn’t blame anyone, though neither does it offer easy answers about living with them.
I’d still sign up for the mountain man lifestyle, though.