Hearts Beat Loud

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Hearts Beat Loud
"Despite, or perhaps because of this general air of ephemerality, you want to hold on to the moment and particularly to that sweet spot of youth, so deftly portrayed by Clemons, when everything is blossoming with possibility."

This sweet crowd-pleasing musical may have the merest whisper of a story - a widower dad (Nick Offerman) giving up his treasured record shop, his daughter (Kiersey Clemons) preparing to leave for college and the musical partnership they form - but the lightness with which it also carries its themes of a lesbian relationship, a biracial family and the tug of first love and parental letting go is as welcome as a summer breeze and makes for feelgood cross-generational cinema.

Frank Fisher is the sort of dad most of us can only dream of having, as right on as it is possible to be without being cloying and warmly supportive of his daughter Sam, although his Nick Hornby-esque longing for youth in some ways makes him more of a teenager than she is. In addition to still feeling the shadow of grief over the loss of her mother, he is also experiencing the sort of pre-grief with knowing Sam is about to leave home, compounded by the fact he is, after many years, being forced to sell up his record shop - another loss he takes to heart. His mother (Blythe Danner) is also slipping away from him mentally and the possibility of moving on to sturdier emotional footing with his landlady Leslie (Toni Collette) seems tantalisingly out of reach.

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Brett Haley creates a world that feels real. Jam sessions between dad and daughter have a comfy slippers vibe, their roles apparently well-established down the years, although now, as Frank sees his daughter's talents blossoming, could his pride turn into a quiet desperation to regain lost youth?

Keegan DeWitt's songs - sung by Offerman and Clemons - have a cheerful summer hook to them, although the fact one of them is played in full twice emphasises the lack of beef in the story. Ted Danson's dive bar owner, while leaving a warm glow, is also allowed to drift out of the film as though wafted on the wind, while Danner - who played the central role in Haley's previous I'll See You In My Dreams - feels more cast because the director loves her than for the necessity of her character.

Despite, or perhaps because of this general air of ephemerality, you want to hold on to the moment and particularly to that sweet spot of youth, so deftly portrayed by Clemons, when everything is blossoming with possibility. The actress, who has mostly done TV work up to this point, is likely to be leaving the small screen behind after this star-making turn. Sasha Lane - also the best thing fellow Sundance film The Miseducation Of Cameron Post - proves you don't need a wordy script to be an excellent actor, doing a huge amount with Sam's girlfriend Rose, a part that requires her to emote for the camera much of the time.

Confection light, this is a perfect film for our long, hot summer that leaves a honeyed taste of warm nostalgia even as its specifics melt from the memory.

Reviewed on: 05 Aug 2018
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Hearts Beat Loud packshot
In Red Hook, Brooklyn, a father and daughter become an unlikely songwriting duo in the last summer before she leaves for college.

Director: Brett Haley

Writer: Brett Haley, Marc Basch

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

Year: 2018

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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