Hearts Beat Loud

 

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A Brooklyn tale about a father and a daughter in which music plays a central role.

 
Hearts Beat Loud

Kiersey Clemons and Nick-Offerman

 

This film may or may not turn out to be this summer's sleeper hit, but it deserves to become that. Hearts Beat Loud is the fourth feature film by Brett Haley working once again with Marc Basch as his co-writer. Nevertheless, it arrives out of the blue since it is their first movie that has music at its heart. That delay surprises because this comes across as the work of somebody grounded in music and able to convey what it means to be a musician from the inside.

 

This is not the first work to have a record store as its central location (to name just one the 2000 film version of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity was a huge hit), but the emphasis here is on writing, rehearsing and creating music. Frank Fisher (Nick Offerman), a widower in his forties, has run Red Hook Records in Brooklyn for seventeen years as a labour of love but its future is in doubt. By now he has recognised from shared jam sessions that his daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) has real talent both as a composer and as a singer. Consequently, he uploads a recording of the two of them on Spotify dreaming of possible success performing together under the name 'We're not a Band'. However, Sam is due to leave for UCLA and is planning a career as a doctor.

 

What Haley set out to do was to create a film in which music was central but in such a way that the featured songs, supplied for the film by Keegan DeWitt, would be integral to the narrative. Just as importantly, he pares down the plot to make the musical bond between father and daughter and the expressiveness of the songs the key element in the film. Without demeaning them, he treats as subsidiary Sam's romantic attachment with Rose (Sasha Lane), Frank's interest in his landlady Leslie (Toni Collette) and the support offered to Frank by his old friend Dave, a bar owner (Ted Danson). With such a good cast, all these elements count for something but never overshadow the musical partnership that is central to the movie.

 

Indeed, with Clemons supplying her own vocals, Hearts Beat Loud echoes Once (2007) but overtakes it as the most persuasive screen example yet of two people engaged in the process of developing music together. There is some neat humorous writing here, but that too is secondary to the film's chosen path of involving us in the ability of two people to express themselves in music. If I regard Hearts Beat Loud as not quite a masterpiece, it is because when it comes to winding things up its ending doesn't quite provide the satisfaction that one would like. Regardless of that, this looks set to be a classic in its own genre, a labour of love that will earn the love of its audience.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Ted Danson, Toni Collette, Sasha Lane, Blythe Danner, Quincy Dunn-Baker, Alex Reznik, Andrea Morales, Michael Abbott Jnr.

 

Dir Brett Haley, Pro Sam Bisbee, Sam Slater, Amy Jarvela and Rowan Riley, Screenplay Brett Halsey and Marc Basch, Ph Eric Lin, Pro Des Erin Magill, Ed Patrick Colman, Costumes Melissa Vargas.

 

Burn Later Productions/Houston Wing Productions/Park Pictures-Park Circus.
97 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 3 August 2018. Cert. 12A.