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Review: Hearts Beat Loud (2018)

Hearts Beat Loud (2018)

Directed by: Brett Haley

Premise: A widowed father (Nick Offerman) manages a struggling music store while his daughter (Kiersey Clemons) prepares to leave for college. The two of them record a single that becomes a viral success.

What Works: Hearts Beat Loud is a story about breaking away and accepting change. The film centers upon the relationship between Frank and Sam, a father and his daughter who share an affinity for music. The wife and mother of the family has passed away and the father and daughter’s mutual love of music is partly a way of remembering their departed. Conflict comes when the daughter plans to leave the nest to attend medical school on the other side of the country. Without saying it overtly, Frank is desperate to keep Sam close and when the two of them record a song together Frank surreptitiously uploads the track to Spotify where it becomes a hit. Frank pressures Sam to stay and exploit their viral success. Meanwhile, Sam meets Rose (Sasha Lane) and the two of them begin a romantic relationship. Sam is caught between the new developments in her old life and the possibilities and opportunities of medical school. The father-daughter relationship is the center of Hearts Beat Loud and it’s a credible and engaging portrait. The filmmakers have empathy for both of these characters and weigh their desires in a way that is complicated. Some of those complications are in the character’s mistakes; the father makes decisions that are inconsistent with the wisdom expected of his years but his mistakes are motivated by a palatable fear of loss. Hearts Beat Loud is also a musical film and the picture includes some original songs. They are good tunes but the music also allows the characters to express themselves. That’s typically the function of song numbers in a straightforward musical and it’s worked into this dramatic film in a way that is clear to the audience even if it isn’t always clear to the characters. Hearts Beat Loud is also credible in its regard for music at this present moment. This isn’t a story of wish fulfillment—quite the opposite, actually—and the filmmakers are realistic about the prospect of making a living playing and selling music.

What Doesn’t: This film’s only major fault is its tendency to conclude everything too tidily. Hearts Beat Loud is a movie about the power of music to heal and transcend differences. The filmmakers give themselves over to that idea and conflicts are resolved too easily. One of the film’s strengths is its brevity but the filmmakers don’t always give the conflicts enough space and time to develop, especially when relationships hit their crisis point. The film delivers a feel-good conclusion that is satisfying enough but it’s also a little too neat and convenient.  

DVD extras: Commentary track, interviews, musical performance, and an image gallery.

Bottom Line: Hearts Beat Loud is a nice, feel-good father-daughter story. The film offers likable characters and an enjoyable soundtrack of original indie-rock songs but it also avoids sentimentality and possesses enough gravitas to give the movie substance.

Episode: #753 (June16, 2019)