Directed by: Brett Haley
Starring: Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Ted Danson, Toni Collette, Sasha Lane
With ‘La La Land’ and ‘Sing Street’, we have been spoiled recently with a resurgence in movie musicals (not adapted from the stage), with original songs. ‘Hearts Beat Loud’ fits more into the ‘Sing Street’ model (along with John Carney’s other film musicals ‘Once’ and ‘Begin Again’), in that it doesn’t have full singing-and-dancing musical numbers, but rather is a quiet and gentle everyday tale, interspersed with songs. In this case, the songs arise from a father and daughter duo. Frank Fisher (Nick Offerman) is trying to connect with his daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) in the summer before she moves away to college. The film deals with themes of change and loss; Frank is a widow and is also coping with the impending closure of the record store he has owned for nearly 20 years. Sam discovers a summer romance but knows it cannot last because of her moving away.
Of course, most of us are familiar with Nick Offerman from his iconic role as Ron Swanson in ‘Parks & Rec‘, so it is a revelation to see him as such a different character. I had not come across Clemons before, but she is a clear talent – not only as an actress, but also a singer. After blowing me away in Andrea Arnold’s ‘American Honey’, I was really excited to see Sasha Lane again (here playing Sam’s love interest Rose) and I also cannot wait to see her in the upcoming ‘Miseducation of Cameron Post’. The small cast is rounded out by Toni Collette as Leslie (the landlady of the record store and a potential love interest for Frank), Ted Danson as Dave, a failed Broadway actor and now owner of Frank’s favourite bar, and Blythe Danner as Frank’s mother.
The film is packed full of plenty of nostalgia – for Frank’s beloved vinyl, yes, but also both Frank and Sam looking back at the time they had with Sam’s mother before she died. She had also been a singer and at least part of Frank’s insistence on Sam singing with him, is an attempt to recreate his time playing with her. Some may view Frank’s attempts to start a band with his daughter as cringey desperation; for him to finally realise his life-long dreams. However, Offerman portrays the love and pride he has for his daughter and her talent so convincingly and heart-warmingly, you believe it is an altruistic act on his part. He does seem to genuinely be doing it in order to spend as much time as possible with her before she moves away. However, she is so invested in the med school she will be starting in the autumn that she is taking summer classes to get a head start. Things are complicated when Frank puts one of the songs they’ve recorded together online and it becomes something of a viral hit.
Some may complain (as they also did with ‘Ocean’s 8′) that this film is so low-stakes that you’re not invested. Yes, it is like slipping into a warm bath that gets very slightly choppy at times, but so what? Sometimes you want something purely feel-good, that will also occasionally have you shedding a tear. It is so refreshing to see an LGBT love-story told in such a positive way. Frank is completely comfortable asking Sam if she has a new “girlfriend or boyfriend” and he couldn’t be happier about Rose. Writer-director Brett Haley asked Clemons and Lane for their input into the dialogue for the scenes between their two characters, giving the relationship a more authentic feel.
The songs featured in ‘Hearts Beat Loud’ deserve to be hits in their own right and to be in the Oscar conversation for next year, particularly as some of us are still feeling the sting of ‘Sing Street’ missing out on nominations. This film is just a lovely warm hug that features tender performances and sweet songs. It is a vulnerable portrayal of a father-daughter relationship that still feels real because it withholds from laying it on too thickly. It’s the sort of film you could confidently watch with your parents and there is something to be said for that. I sense this could be the feel-good hit of the summer and it could finally help British cinemas move on from the Shatest Growman, which can only be a good thing. Go and see it – you won’t regret it!