Sundance 2018: Brett Haley's 'Hearts Beat Loud' is a Rockin' Sensation
by Alex Billington
January 27, 2018
I admit I have a soft spot for musicals, which means I also have big soft spot for films where people come together to make new music - either as a band, or a DJ, or a solo act. Hearts Beat Loud is the latest film from filmmaker Brett Haley (The New Year, I'll See You in My Dreams, The Hero) and it might be the best Closing Night film I've seen in the 12 years I've been coming to the Sundance Film Festival. Most films that premiere on Closing Night at Sundance are enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable, however this one breaks the mold and delivers a heartwarming, rockin', completely satisfying experience. The music they make is great, even though it does have a pop sound, it's still music I want to listen to on repeat. Most of all there's a sweet, warm feeling to this film that makes it so satisfying, as cinematic storytelling that's good for the soul.
Hearts Beat Loud stars Nick Offerman as Frank Fisher, the father of a bright, spunky, intelligent young woman named Sam, played by Kiersey Clemons. Her mother died years ago in an accident, so it's just the two of them. They live in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and she's about to head off soon to start college at UCLA on the other side of the country. Frank, who used to be in a band but now runs a record store, is struggling to keep the store running while also dealing with the feelings starting to hit as he's about to see his daughter go away and will have no one around. One night, Frank convinces Sam to participate in a "jam sesh" and they make a track called "Hearts Beat Loud" that becomes a huge hit on Spotify. He tries to convince her to start a band with him and write more music, but realizes that's just his selfish desire to spend more time with her.
The film is effortlessly amusing and enjoyable, and thankfully never dips into condescension or cynicism, which is refreshing in this day & age. And also good to keep us inspired within a world that is so depressing. The relationship that Sam has with her father is never questioned, or broken down in a way where it asks if they might be bad for each other. Instead, it goes back and forth between discussing how each has their own desires, and each one wants something that is good for them. For Frank, that's spending more time with his daughter and bonding with her. For Sam, that's following her dreams and staying true to herself in a world where everyone wants to tell her what to do. I appreciate that Brett Haley is able to work these themes into the film in a light way so they never feel in your face, rather a natural part of the music-making storytelling.
I especially love the songs that they come up with together as a band called "We're Not a Band" - Sam sings the vocals and uses the drum machine/keyboards; Frank plays the guitar and bass. The tracks are written by composer Keegan DeWitt, and I already want to start listening to them over and over. They're a nice mix of fresh pop and old school rock, and they're big crowd-pleasers, but you know what, they're fun to listen to and I am happy they're this good. It's always important to that the original songs are good in a film about making music (last year's Sundance film Band Aid had some good songs but none that really rocked this much). This film will pull you in and may even touch your heart, because it has such a sweet side to it and we all love sweet things sometimes. I'm happy Hearts Beat Loud turned out to be such a rockin' sensation.
Alex's Sundance 2018 Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing