A father and daughter find the right rhythm in their lives
Every year there’s a constant stream of low budget indie films that create a buzz at Sundance but rarely find their way onto UK cinema screens, eventually ending up on streaming services like Netflix and iTunes in the hope of finding an audience. Hearts Beat Loud was another of those that left the Utah festival to high praise earlier this year, although it has beaten the odds and starts a small cinema run over here this week.
Nick Offerman has been in more than his fair share of these types of films, usually playing the grumpy dad, delivering his lines with sarcastic glee. While it’s a role he reprises in this charming, heartfelt film, he also gets to take the lead role, which for such a talented and genuine performer is something you wish would happen more often.
Director Brett Haley’s aim was to make a sweet film as a reaction to what he sees as the crazy times we live in and with Hearts Beat Loud it’s a mission accomplished with aplomb. This light-hearted father-daughter drama sees Frank (Offerman) and his daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) casually working together on some music in their sparse home studio, which finds its way onto a Spotify playlist and slightly larger recognition.
But being in a band with her father isn’t really on Sam’s agenda (Frank names the group We’re Not A Band after an off-handed comment from his daughter) with a place at UCLA as a med-grad just around the corner. Falling in love with her new girlfriend Rose (Sasha Lane) also wasn’t supposed to happen, while Frank’s long-standing record store business is on the verge of shutting down.
The look, feel and story beats pass through familiar indie territory, with the message of pursuing your dreams rather than someone else’s being the cut and dry version. Yet, it’s the cast that really sell it, along with a handful of catchy melancholic songs by composer and musician Keegan DeWitt and Haley’s intelligent script that prevent it from careering down cliché avenue.
Aside from his saxophone loving alpha-male Ron Swanson in Parks and Recreation, Offerman has specialised in curmudgeonly characters, playing the straight-faced dad whose bone-dry humour is frequently laugh out loud funny. His what-you-see-is-what-you-get authenticity is always a big appeal and it is no different here as a father down on his luck, lamenting his past decisions and determined not to let his daughter put her talent aside for a more traditional career path.
Yet it is Clemons who steals the show, her subtle performance providing an emotional insight into her conflicted thoughts through simple pauses, quiet looks and carefully judged reactions. She surprisingly has a great set of pipes too, belting out DeWitt’s melodies and lyrics with real soulful meaning. Her relationship with Rose is given depth by the simple scenes shared with Lane and pleasingly their coupledom is presented as a non-issue, just a regular relationship that isn’t used for further dramatic effect.
The supporting cast is pretty great too, with Toni Collette displaying her usual effortless charm, Ted Danson appearing as Frank’s best friend (and he’s finally back behind a bar again) and Blythe Danner as Sam’s grandmother showing early signs of dementia (similar to a role she also plays in the upcoming What They Had). It’s the sort of film that wears its heart unashamedly on its sleeve and makes no excuses for it. Hearts Beat Loud is pure comfort cinema, happy to stay in its lane sincerely hoping its audience get wrapped up in it too.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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