Buster's Mal Heart

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Buster's Mal Heart
Buster's Mal Heart poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySarah Adina Smith
Produced by
  • Jonako Donley
  • Travis Stevens
Written bySarah Adina Smith
Music byMister Squinter
CinematographyShaheen Seth
Edited bySarah Adina Smith
Distributed byWell Go USA Entertainment
Release date
  • September 11, 2016 (2016-09-11) (TIFF)
  • April 28, 2017 (2017-04-28) (United States)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
  • English
  • Spanish
Box office$62,382[1]

Buster's Mal Heart is a 2016 surreal mystery film written and directed by Sarah Adina Smith. It stars Rami Malek, DJ Qualls, and Kate Lyn Sheil.

The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2016. It was released on April 28, 2017, by Well Go USA Entertainment.


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 Inversion at the turn of the millennium, he is haunted by visions of being lost at sea, and memories of his former life as a family man.

Buster (Rami Malek) was once Jonah, a hard-working husband and father whose job as the night-shift concierge at a hotel took its toll on his psyche and, consequently, his marriage to the sensitive Marty (Kate Lyn Sheil) — until a chance encounter with a conspiracy-obsessed drifter (DJ Qualls) changed the course of their lives forever. As the solitary present-day Buster drifts from house to house, eluding the local sheriff at every turn, we gradually piece together the events that fractured his life and left him alone on top of a snowy mountain, or perhaps in a small rowboat in the middle of a vast ocean — or both.[2]



After producing her first feature film The Midnight Swim, Smith knew that she wanted to create a story about a man and a mountain. She wrote the script at the Screenwriters Colony in Nantucket, MA. It was a non-traditional script, that combined illustrations with scene descriptions so that it almost read like a short story.

While finding financing came surprisingly easily for such an unusual script, the biggest challenge was finding someone to cast as the lead. Originally planning to cast a Latino actor due to the bilingual nature of the main character Jonah, Smith widened the search to expedite the casting process, eventually deciding on Rami Malek who she had seen in Short Term 12 and The Pacific. A tarot-card reading confirmed her casting choice.[3]

Buster's Mal Heart was filmed near Glacier National Park and in Kalispell, MT, as well as on the ocean in open water. Originally, Smith planned to film in her home-state of Colorado but, in the end, decided to shoot in Montana for the available state grant as well as the unique and dramatic landscape. The film was shot in 18 days.[4]


Buster's Mal Heart premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2016.[5] Shortly after, Well Go USA Entertainment acquired U.S distribution rights to the film.[6] The film went onto screen at the AFI Fest on November 11, 2016.[7] and screened at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 26, 2017.[8][9]

It was released on April 28, 2017.[10][11]

Critical reception[edit]

Buster's Mal Heart received positive reviews from film critics. It holds a 72% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 43 reviews, with an average score of 6.2/10.[12] On Metacritic, the film holds a weighted average score of 63 out of 100 based on 15 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[13]

John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review writing : "Fans of Mr. Robot won't be disappointed in the least by this vehicle for Emmy-winning series star Rami Malek, which both fits in with Mr. Robot's delusion-prone paranoia and lets the charismatic actor stretch out in his first feature lead."[14] Jeanette Catsoulis of The New York Times also gave the film a positive review writing : "If the story is too tricky to realize its themes or welcome the impatient, it also contains enough empathy to humanize a character who's part man, part spiritual symbol.[15] Geoff Berkshire of Variety also gave the film a positive review writing : "Whether he's playfully interacting with his wife and daughter, or delivering a madman's rant to thin air, Malek has the range to be utterly charming, utterly creepy, or both at once."[16]


  1. ^ "Buster's Mal Heart". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  2. ^ http://bustersmalheart.com/site/index.html
  3. ^ Scott Macaulay. "TIFF 2016: Five Questions for Buster's Mal Heart Writer/Director Sarah Adina Smith". FilmMaker.
  4. ^ O'Falt, Chris. "Where I Shot It: Finding the Right Backdrop for a Character's Spiritual Quest in 'Buster's Mal Heart'". Indiewire. Retrieved 2016-02-22.
  5. ^ "Buster's Mal Heart". www.tiff.net. Retrieved 2016-09-19.
  6. ^ McNary, Dave (October 26, 2016). "Rami Malek's Thriller 'Buster's Mal Heart' Sells to Well Go USA". Variety. Retrieved October 26, 2016.
  7. ^ "Buster's Mal Heart". AFI. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  8. ^ Cox, Gordon (March 2, 2017). "Tribeca Film Festival Unveils 2017 Feature Film Slate (FULL LIST)". Variety. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  9. ^ "Buster's Mal Heart". Tribeca Film Festival. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  10. ^ Crust, Kevin (January 16, 2017). "Listing a winter's worth of movies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
  11. ^ "Buster's Mal Heart". Variety. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
  12. ^ "Buster's Mal Heart". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  13. ^ "Buster's Mal Heart". Metacritic. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  14. ^ DeFore, John (September 20, 2016). "'Buster's Mal Heart': Film Review TIFF 2016". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
  15. ^ Catsoulis, Jeanette (April 27, 2017). "Review: Rami Malek as a Drifter With a Past in 'Buster's Mal Heart'". The New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
  16. ^ Berkshire, Geoff (September 11, 2016). "Toronto Film Review: 'Buster's Mal Heart'". Variety. Retrieved April 30, 2017.

External links[edit]