One-time musician Frank Fisher (Nick Offerman) is about to give up the record store he’s been running for 17 years. On top of that, his daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons), who he’s been raising on his own since her mother died, is on the point of leaving home to study medicine at UCLA, and his mother (Blythe Danner) is in the early stages of dementia.
No wonder Frank’s a little crotchety.
But one thing that always makes Frank smile is jamming with Sam. To cheer him up, Sam takes time out of studying to write and record a song with him.
In a fit of exuberance, Frank uploads the song to Spotify and waddyaknow, it becomes a huge hit! Blown away by the success, Frank tries to persuade Sam to forget about college and stay at home recording music with him instead. She isn’t the sort of teen to be sidelined but her burgeoning relationship with Rose (Sasha Lane) makes staying at home a tempting prospect.
The more cynical might argue that slotting a same-sex relationship into this mild-mannered script is tokenism, but director Brett Haley’s low-key, honest presentation of two young people in the first flush of love is as sweet and delightful as the rest of the film. Their shared gender is incidental to the plot; isn’t flagged as an “issue” and there’s something very refreshing in that.
But it’s the acting that really raises the bar here. Offerman and Clemons are excellent in their roles, Offerman playing the slightly crabby Frank with just the right level of whimsy while Clemons’ Sam is the perfect mix of teenage strop and charm. They are ably supported by screen stalwarts Toni Collette (as Frank’s landlady and potential lover) and Ted Danson (as an affable bar owner).
Haley said he wanted to “make a film that makes people feel good and reminds (them) of the simple goodness in the world”. It’s a modest ambition and one that this modest film achieves. Hearts Beat Loud isn’t going to rock any worlds but it’s sure to warm a few hearts.
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