Hearts Beat Loud: A Mendocino Film Festival Film
With my long history in the music industry certain themes, ideas and, of course, songs jump out at me with some regularity. Perhaps it’s fair to borrow a phrase from a 1970s hit: “I’ve Got The Music In me”. In fact, we all do, we all have music in us, only to lesser or greater degrees. So when I have a chance to hear something or see something with strong musical character I can’t simply ignore it. And that “something” struck again this week as I connected with a film titled Hearts Beat Loud, one of the offerings at the 2018 Mendocino Film Festival.
The premise is is simple: Single dad (Frank, a widower) raising a college-bound daughter, Sam. Yet the complexity enters the story when two worlds collide. First, daughter Sam is headed to a very fine pre-med program. Second, Frank’s business, his livelihood—a record store—appears to be barely grossing enough money to survive (as most record stores do these days); his business problems are compounded by a sympathetic yet pragmatic landlord who will raise the rent or terminate his lease.
As widower and aging Brooklyn hipster Frank (Nick Offerman) prepares to send hardworking daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) off to UCLA pre-med, he accepts that his record-store business is failing. Hoping to stay connected with his daughter through their shared love of music, he urges her to turn their weekly “jam sesh” into an actual band. With this moment staring them in the face, they recognize that “they aren’t really a band”. As fate has it, it’s also this recognition that results in a name for the band: “We’re Not A Band”. In short order they unexpectedly find their first release is on the radio, and “We’re Not a Band” seems to have a Spotify hit. With a glimmer of hope they use their songwriting efforts to work through their feelings about the life changes each is facing.
Offerman and Clemons provide genuine warmth and chemistry as father and daughter, and collaborate spiritedly on their characters’ catchy, heartfelt musical offerings; Toni Collette and Sasha Lane contribute charming and multi-faceted performances as the pair’s respective potential love interests. Director Brett Haley (a Sundance Film Festival alum with I’ll See You in My Dreams and The Hero) foregrounds sincerity and affection in this gentle, evocative ode to the bittersweetness of everyday life.
Kiersey Clemons as Sam, and Nick Offerman as Frank simultaneously sieze their respective roles and suck us into the story. While Clemons exhibits solid acting ability, Offerman, happily, uses his acting (and presumably life) experience to make the film audience believe he’s not a delusional adult seeking a fountain of youth.
It’s not as easy to go for a film like this as you might think. One suspects that a happy ending is a sure thing but life isn’t like the movies. Nevertheless, I loved Sam, her goofy father, and their conflict over seizing the moment or simply acquiescing to a harsher reality. See the movie June 1, 8:00pm in Ft. Bragg, and make up your own mind. One reality does come right off the screen and into our psyche: Hearts do beat loud. And that’s a good thing.