Taking place in succession, two scenes in Hearts Beat Loud encapsulate the angst and love that mutually plague all parent and child relationships.
In the first scene, high-achiever Sam (Kiersey Clemons) tells her father Frank (Nick Offerman) to stop chasing a musical pipe dream. In the next scene, while buying a make-up pastry for his daughter, Frank hears the song they created together for the first time in public. A creation he secretly uploaded to Spotify, to what becomes Sam’s frustration.
Frank’s heart-warming elation and the glee he yearns from spending time with Sam is the bedrock of this American feature. A romantic-comedy where the leads attraction sealed by blood not attraction, the film is a well-soundtracked love-in of family ties.
A widowed former musician with a failing vinyl store, Frank naturally wallows in between phases of self-pity fuelled by drinking and smoking and obsession over his only daughter. A gifted musician herself, Sam is determined on getting into med-school. Resting her musical talents and girlfriend to one side to focus on life after high school.
Within a matter of frames, the third protagonist of Hearts Beat Loud is introduced. The music. With some reluctance Sam collaborates with her father to create the titular song, which goes on to become a reasonable success.
Writer and director Brett Haley, has hit a 90-minute sweet spot that plays ideally into his repertoire of soothing domestic comedy-dramas. The most renowned being 2015’s I’ll See You In My Dreams. In lieu of an antagonist, Hearts Beat Loud is able to explore, with some nuance, the underrepresented dynamics of a father-daughter relationship. Archetypal opposites, in spite of their shared musical abilities, the blossoming but equally fractured love shared by Frank and Sam is an all too relatable plight. Just as the father wants to grow close to his daughter, he feels Sam slipping away.
In the lead role Offerman is inoffensive. His mistakes are same parts frustrating as they are predictable. His eventual acceptance that his daughter must follow her dreams instead of strumming the keys in a family-two-piece-band, is poised to tug at parental hearts. Within frames Offerman captivatingly switches between frustration and sadness to joy. It’s a wake-up-call for every child just how fragile brittle adults can be.
A mixed-raced, non-heterosexual character, Sam is not what one would expect from a coming-of-age film. Her tenacity and determination is matched by the underlying love she holds for her father. Clemons is able to glean the elements frustration, excitement and an occasional infuriation with parents that harasses most high schoolers.
Seasoned performers Ted Danson, Toni Collette and Blythe Danner are relegated to subordinate positions are bar-man/friend, landlord/friend and mother/grandmother respectively. However, like the leads, they avoid caricatured depictions that often act as padding for weaker comedies.
The soundtrack and score perfectly sway along to the heart-warming tone of the on screen storyline. Diegetic indie 90s tracks float in and out of a score penned by well-known composer Keegan DeWitt, who has scored creations for a number of Haley’s other features.
Contained, yet subtlly thoughtful and progressive. Hearts Beat Loud is an inoffensive but important take on relationship often underrated.