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Soundtracking: "Hearts Beat Loud"

by Chris Feil

Brett Haley is quietly becoming the American independent counterpart to Once and Sing Street’s John Carney, crafting happy-sad narratives with music as a key ingredient. With music partner Keegan DeWitt, Haley’s films feature characters at the end of their performance days taking one renewed grasp toward fulfillment. His newest film Hearts Beat Loud is the most addictively musical, and like his I’ll See You in My Dreams before it, its songs come straight from the heart.

Loud is the story of Frank and Sam Fisher, played by Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons, a father-daughter pair preparing for imminent college bicoastal separation. Frank is a failed musician and now record store owner, forever pushing the gifted Sam towards a music collaboration she perpetually resists...

When Frank puts one of their late-night jam sessions on Spotify, Frank tries to convince Sam to derail her college aspirations for the sake of their accidentally named duo act We Are Not A Band. Thanks to a summer fling with Sasha Lane’s open-hearted artist Rose, Sam may just relent against following her own path.

Here the songs they create together encompass both their heartbreaks together and the ones all their own. At once the emotion in their set list embodies the pain of a father and daughter still struggling to process the loss of the mother, Sam’s burgeoning inconveniently timed summer romance, and Frank’s need to begin a new chapter. The cliche is that music provides a universal experience, but Haley shows it as emotionally collaborative instead. It’s a vessel for both of them to say the things they avoid, a shot right into their tightly protected hearts.

Sam and Rose’s love story is believably understated and organically composed as an unpretentious cozy love song. There’s both spark and safety net, the kind of comfort you feel buried into Sam’s ode “Blink (One Million Miles)”. When Sam first protests that the song isn’t a love song, what she’s really rejecting is the fact that she’s falling in love at all. But the contrary proof is right there in the lyrics she writes - breathless longing, clarity shining through her confusion, deep gratitude.

Meanwhile, Frank struggles for his own new beginning. Voluntarily closing his store (the alternative option to his inability to catch on as an artist) feels like another degree of giving up, turning his back on at least surrounding himself in what he loves. He lacks the natural magnetism of his daughter, so her reticence stings. Their collaboration resurrects his artistic passions, but the unspoken stirring is the memory of his departed wife. As with his music career, he hasn’t been able to move on.

But the music becomes both instigator and healer for Sam and Frank to unload all of the things they are otherwise unable to approach. The weight is lifted in the soaring refrain of “Everything Must Go”, performed as both father and daughter relinquish the things they have held onto for better and worse. It’s a song about moving on with determination and embracing an unknown future, all the more comforting as Sam and Frank’s burdens are lifted before our eyes and ears.

Even in the catchy and uplifting sound, Haley and DeWitt avoid pat conclusions while still delivering something that heals. Just like the best of pop songs.

Hearts Beat Loud is now playing in theatres!

All Soundtracking installments can be found here!

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Reader Comments (1)

Just saw this the other day and had the same thought that it was very reminiscent of the films of John Carney (whom I love). What I especially enjoy about all these movies is how it illuminates the pure act of creating music as the reward in and of itself; its impact on others is almost an afterthought, and commercial success never the true focus.

I've also decided I'm quite liking Brett Haley as a filmmaker. His work is so deceptively low-key and un-flashy it's easy to underestimate, but it has an emotional truth that really lingers.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

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