One of my absolute favorite films from this year’s Sundance Film Festival was Hearts Beat Loud, the latest from writer-director Brett Haley (I’ll See You in My Dreams, The Hero), about a widowed single father of a daughter about to leave for college and their last-ditch effort to connect via their shared love of making music together. Nick Offerman stars as Frank, who owns a vinyl record store in Brooklyn on the brink of going under, despite the best attempts of his landlord (Toni Collette), who might also have a little crush on Frank.
Daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons, recently seen in the film Dope) is mentally preparing to move away from home when Frank suggests they sit down for one of their semi-regular jam sessions, which happens to result in a pretty catchy song that inadvertently turns into a minor internet sensation. Frank sees this as a chance to turn their informal playing into something more serious—an actual singing/songwriting partnership. Sam’s more interested in pursuing a new girl she’s just met, Rose (Sasha Lane from American Honey), but because she knows how much this means to her dad, she writes more music with him, and they even give their band a name—This Is Not A Band.
There are no bad guys in Hearts Beat Loud, just a collection of decent people trying not to get in the way of each other’s goals or dreams. When Frank floats the idea that Sam delay going to college to see if this band idea has any potential, she almost slaps him for being so selfish. And while we’d love to see these two hit the road and play at our local club, we also get where she’s coming from.
Frank is also dealing with his mother (Blythe Danner), who lives with him and whose mental health and memory are declining, so he knows he must put her in a home where she can be looked after 24/7—one more thing he’s losing at this point in his mid-life. Offerman is absolutely extraordinary as the sweetly gruff Frank, who has to let go of all the things that anchored him to feeling younger than others in his age group.
The entire film leads up to an in-store farewell concert by This Is Not A Band (their first and likely final show), and the music (all written by great young composer/songwriter Keegan DeWitt) is quite good. Hearts Beat Loud is a coming-of-age story for both daughter and father, and director Haley (who co-wrote with his regular writing partner Marc Basch) allows us to settle into this low-stakes, high-emotion journey with these characters and enjoy their music along with the rest of the world. This is a film about harmony, in about a hundred different ways.
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