The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
Musa Syeed is a master of silent characters. He filled his previous film, “Valley of Saints” (2012), with people who spoke little with words, but much with expressions. His new film, “A Stray,” offers the same. While his previous film took us into the lives of two friends in colorful Kashmir, this film follows a young man through the little-seen, vibrant world of Somali refugees in Minneapolis. For many viewers, this terrain will be just as foreign. These are quiet films with heavy emotions.
The film opens with Adan (Barkhad Abdirahman, “Captain Phillips”) staring at a canary sitting in a cage. Frustrated that his friends will not speak to him with respect—because he has no money and does not work—he releases the bird, which soon crashes into a window and dies. That is the direction his own life seems to be taking.
He sees himself in that canary; many of the shots in this film show Adan either looking into cages or squeezed in tight spaces. He is a young, astray man who cannot help but break rules, alienating everyone. He has conversations in his head with the Divine, wondering about his place in the world. He casually tells people, “I’m bad luck.” Rather, he is a square peg in a round hole, the young man who cannot fit anywhere, so he seems rebellious, but cannot help it.
His mother has given up on him, and kicks him out of her home. The local Imam lets him stay briefly in the local mosque, and prays with him to find forgiveness and a friend. Soon, his prayer gets answered: he meets a restaurant owner who gives him a job delivering food. As he drives on his first assignment, his car hits a stray dog, and from there, the story unravels.