Hearts Beat Loud (Haley, 2018)

Like a knitted sweater, Hearts Beat Loud is a cozy and warm pleasure. Very low-stakes, unencumbered by twisty plotting, and breezily musical at heart. It’s very hard not to fall for its charms, although I can also understand why some would resist it. If you’re tuning into a film to have your invested time redeemed, then this one will make you question the initial commitment. If you crave substance, drama, and intellectual stimulation, or if you want your films to speak only to larger concerns, then Hearts Beat Loud is not the place to go. At most you could argue it taps into the melancholy around dying trends like physical media, particularly in the shuttering of vinyl and record stores. Compared to the instantaneous benefits of digital streaming platforms like Spotify (which is featured extensively), the added effort to obtain and play records has caused them to dwindle into a niche market. Questioning the “what now?” is natural, and the film does this quite a bit as Nick Offerman’s character wants to begin making music with his daughter. He wants to graduate to the newer school—from musical curation to creation. With only a few hours of messing around, a song can be uploaded to a platform in minutes, and it can go viral within days. The prospect of making it big is a temptation, because we’ve reached an age where it can happen without much effort. What we don’t always see is the illusion.

The film does itself a great service by making Sam resistant to her father’s scheming. She is pragmatic about the opportunities that lie ahead, and is not bewitched by simplistic lures. Moreover, she resists allowing her father to live out his dreams vicariously through her. The more typical route would’ve seen Sam acquiescing quickly to the charms of stardom and feeling guilty about it the whole way through. Here, she firmly tells him not to intrude on her aspirations. And, even better, he begins to listen. She sings her own song, and he strums his own guitar, and eventually they learn to bring the melodies together without clashing. It’s a film respectful of its characters, choosing not to force them into tantalizing predicaments against their better natures. I guess for some that will make it a dull endeavour with very little payoff, for if indeed the characters are allowed to stand by their principles, why should we watch? My answer to that is: you don’t have to if you don’t want to. The sentiments, the feathery musical landscape, and the presence of a fulfilling LGBTQ relationship were enough justification for me, and I had a swell time. Not to mention the Mitski shoutout, which I found delightful. Any film that can tip its hat to Mitski can do no wrong in my book.