Hearts Beat Loud review Nick Offerman Kiersey ClemonsYear: 2018
Director(s): Brett Haley
Writer(s): Brett Haley, Marc Basch
Region of Origin: USA

Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1
Rating: PG-13
Digital, Color, 97 mins

Synopsis: A father and daughter form an unlikely songwriting duo in the summer before she leaves for college. (Source)

Music is the universal language. It answers questions we haven’t thought to ask yet, helps us say things we can’t put into words, and it can punctuate the entire range of human emotion. It’s art, a weapon, a tool. In Hearts Beat Loud, director Brett Haley shows the healing side of music, showing how it can unite and help us grow. Rather than a one-sided coming of age story, Haley captures a father and daughter who are each at a crossroads. Following both on a journey to acceptance, he draws a tender portrait of love in the wake of tragedy and rebirth. Propped up by powerful performances from Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons, Haley’s film is simple, endearing and packed with great music. It’s a love song that we can’t help but tap our feet to.

Unfolding during one summer in NYC, the story focuses on Frank (Nick Offerman) and his daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons). As he preps for his daughter to leave for college, Frank is faced with closing down a record store he’s owned and operated for almost 20 years. His heart just isn’t in it, and the finances aren’t steady enough to support his family. On the flip side, Sam is spending her last summer in town buried in books and a pre-med class. She’s consumed with becoming a doctor, and running headfirst toward this goal. One night, Frank, a former musician, convinces Sam to an impromptu jam session. This leads to a song which Frank secretly uploads to Spotify, and a modest viral hit that neither is expecting. Suddenly, the two are forced to confront each other in a new way, opening up old wounds and possible new futures.

The simplicity of Haley’s film only helps to amplify how wonderfully effective it is. There are no narrative tricks here, no overwrought, forced drama, just an affecting story of a father and daughter reconnecting after deep family loss. With music as the film’s guiding voice (written and scored by Keegan Dewitt), Frank and Sam’s journey has an honesty that can’t be denied, harnessing their unsaid thoughts into moments of catchy, emotional melodies and rhythms. It goes without saying that Haley’s greatest asset is his restraint, allowing things to unfold without a lot of exposition, but rather candid moments of compassion and understanding. At its core, Haley gives us a father/daughter relationship that’s generally underrepresented in the way it is here, giving us a one-two punch of heart and creativity.

Hearts Beat Loud review Sasha Lane Kiersey ClemonsFrom a performance perspective, the film is brilliantly cast, rendering a range of characters who meet in the middle. As Frank, Offerman commands the screen. He’s as sensitive as he is passionate, making his humorous demeanor irresistible. As Sam, Clemons gives the film it’s angsty realism, dealing with complex issues and pain in a way that feels raw. Together, and to the testament of Haley’s focus, Offerman and Clemons are always full of love, even when Frank and Sam don’t see eye to eye. On the side, Sasha Lane, Toni Collette, Ted Danson and Blythe Danner all accentuate Offerman and Clemons with more depth, adding even more range and color to a film that’s brimming with vibrancy.

Hearts Beat Loud is sweet but not saccharine. Haley’s film wears its heart on its sleeve, but earns  grace by offering up a cinematic pop song that doesn’t leave us hollow or empty when it’s all over. Above all, the film is a reminder of the transformative nature within music and art, but also the familial bonds that can weather time and loss. Haley’s film is a breath of fresh air in dark times, giving us a story without an ounce of cynicism but a lot to sing about.