When life gives you choices it’s certainly hard to pick. Do you go to college and train to become a doctor? Or do you follow up on a hit song you wrote with your Dad? Hearts Beat Loud takes the somewhat fractured relationship of a father and daughter and shows that music can work toward closing unspoken distance.
This a small scale film with minimal characters and languid, softly spoken scenes. The film opens in an old record shop owned by Frank (Nick Offerman). Business is not good, and he’s quietly ignoring the fact that his daughter, Sam (Kiersey Clemons), is going to leave for pre-med school in a week. Frank’s child-like persistence is a contrast to Sam’s quiet maturity. However, she reluctantly agrees to a musical jam session, out of which is borne the rather excellent song, ‘Hearts Beat Loud’. Frank puts it on Spotify without telling her, and it starts to blow up…
The main plot contends with the consequences of the song’s unexpected popularity as well as Frank’s financial woes. However, the core of the movie is the relationship between Frank and Sam. Both Offerman and Clemons imbue their performances with unspoken communication behind the dialogue. The loss of Frank’s wife / Sam’s mother clearly casts a shadow over both of them. It’s the fuel behind Frank’s desire to keep their musical passion going. Yet, it's also the reason for Sam wanting to leave the memories behind.
It’s early in the film when the Hearts Beat Loud song is written which leads to an extended montage of songwriting shots. Satisfying as that is, the scene is indicative of several in the movie; on the edge of too long. Such a thing betrays the absence of significant plot but for the most part, the gentle soundtrack and warm cinematography wraps itself around you so you don’t mind.
The big emotional moments are actually the most subdued and expertly crafted by director Brett Haley. When Frank nervously plays his new song, ‘Everything Must Go’ to Sam the camera slowly zooms towards him for half and then switches to mirror the shot by zooming slowing towards Sam in reverse. We get to experience the emotion that both of them are feeling in long unbroken shots. Something that is later played out euphorically when they perform together.
Haley isn’t interested in showing us the enjoyment of the small crowd; it’s the reconnection of his characters that is his focus.
Despite some interesting seeming sub-plots taking up the edges of the film (Frank’s mother’s kleptomania and Sam’s girlfriend’s art career to name two) the narrative is wisely focused on the two leads and their emotional journey, subtle as it is. Hearts Beat Loud is a quietly confident feel-good movie that is well worth your time.
Words by Michael Record