- Hearts Beat Loud
A sweet, nostalgic father-daughter story is an indie delight with sublime performances and great songs that become its major strength, charming those who love a story powered by music and offering us a throwback to the likes of Begin Again.
Frank, the owner of Brooklyn’s Red Hook Records who’s been running it for more than a decade, faces a handful of difficult decisions. His beloved only child, who he raised on his own, is preparing to leave for the med school at UCLA. His record store is losing money, hovering towards the closure as his former customers prefer to order records off Amazon: the very opening scene introduces us to a rough exchange between the shop owner and an enraged customer. A musician on the side, he seeks solace in hangouts with his best friend Dave and his landlady Leslie, and jam sessions with his daughter Sam. After recording a demo one night and uploading it to Spotify, their impromptu two-piece act We’re Not a Band manages to get a placement on a popular New Indie Mix playlist.
Nick Offerman is absolutely delightful as a soft hipster dad who tries to accept the facts and let his daughter leave the family nest, but also get his personal life in order. And it isn’t that simple: he’s still mourning the tragic loss of his wife and reminiscing the golden age of the act they’ve created together when they were young, taking care of his troublemaking mother Marianne, and trying to figure out his feelings for his friend and landlady Leslie. Letting go of music is an impossible task for him. It flows in the family as we understand from grandmother’s memories of her own hippie times, shaping his life for decades and taking him back to better times with his partner. Full of hopes for the band Sam is sceptical about, he tries to encourage his daughter not to underrate her talent. When he feels disheartened and a little misunderstood, he turns for advice to Dave (Ted Danson), a bar owner with an eccentric, free-spirited attitude. Danson and Offerman reminisce the old times, too, offering a tribute to these years with jokes aplenty.
Frank’s relationship with Sam, played by Kiersey Clemons, is sweet and disarming, even if it feels overly idealised at times. Although the differences between them are prominent and she doesn’t want to entertain the idea of being in an indie band with her dad, the love between them shows at every single step: the harmony punctured by their disagreements between them makes for some of the most powerful scenes. After Dope, Hearts Beat Loud is another vehicle for the young star to showcase her talent – not only in terms of acting but also her musicianship. She’s accompanied by another talented supporting actress. American Honey’s Sasha Lane plays Sam’s supportive girlfriend, who appears briefly throughout the film.
The film screened earlier this year at Sundance, and it’s the second film starring Toni Colette that hits the cinemas this year, showcasing her in a completely different light than Hereditary. Here, she’s the energetic landlady of Red Hook Records who cheerleads Frank with her entire heart, wants to help him by sharing her own experiences and ideas, and is somewhat intrigued by his alternative, bar-hopping-in-the-neighbourhood lifestyle. An enjoyable supporting role is another opportunity for her to create a magnetic character that captures our attention in the fleeting moments she appears on the screen, plus the chemistry between the duo makes for an interesting romantic pairing.
The film’s strength lies in its soundtrack. The songs performed by Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons and penned by Keegan DeWitt delight with the emotional performance and the connection between the leading actors so exquisitely pronounced with every note. They’re incredibly catchy and modern-sounding, as trendy as the best music that comes out of Brooklyn with many contemporary bands; the highlights include Everything Must Go and titular Hearts Beat Loud. The narrative is strongly entwined with the tunes that accompany it, but the film is not a musical. However, it does bring films like Begin Again to mind, where the same feeling of mentorship and guidance dominates the story. Each of the songs can also be easily detached from the plot – they could be standalone hits that appear on an indie Spotify playlist without much trouble.
The film’s aesthetic, created by the film’s cinematographer Eric Lin, brings to mind a music video, particularly in the mini-concert scene towards the finale and careful little montages slotted into the narrative. The colour grading and lighting help to use that visual vernacular and interweave sound and audio to maximise the final effect.
Charming the audience with a genuinely disarming parent-child relationship and a handful of standout supporting roles, Hearts Beat Loud uses music to highlight a heartfelt connection between the characters. Those who love music-fuelled stories, such as John Carney’s Once, Sing Street and Begin Again, are sure to appreciate Brett Haley’s new film, delighted by the nostalgic warmth of the story.
Hearts Beat Loud opens on the 3rd of August 2018.