“We all have one self, but it’s made up of lots of different parts,” says Rose, while walking through an art exhibit displaying sculptures made from music. This sentiment echoes throughout the entirety of Brett Haley’s Hearts Beat Loud and the ever-changing, down to earth and multidimensional qualities of the characters in this movie are what makes it an excellent reflection of real life.
Hearts Beat Loud depicts a snapshot of a transitional stage in Frank and Sam’s life. The father-daughter duo have to come to terms with moving on from a 17-year-long career, and leaving high school for college. In an attempt at closure, the two bond by making music together during their last few weeks of summer. At the heart, it’s a film about change, love, and letting go; but, as the overarching theme goes, there is so much more to it than that.
There may not necessarily be an inherently right or wrong way to depict LGBTQIA+ stories through film, but this one took many steps in the right direction. From pride flags placed in the framing of shots, to the fact that our lead girl Sam—played masterfully by Kiersey Clemons—is a biracial woman in a relationship with another girl, Hearts Beat Loud is a perfect example of how you can meaningfully create a film that depicts queer characters without drawing upon the coming out narrative.
In the past, most queer films were made to follow a specific archetype, in which the identity of the main character became the one and only drive of the story. These films are extremely important because they resonate with the queer experience of coming to terms with identity, the fears of “coming out”, and the struggles that come with facing prejudice. What excited me about this film though, was the indication of an expansion in queer storytelling as a whole. This film proves that it is possible to produce movies that explore these important aspects of the LGBTQIA+ experience in conjunction with stories that have themes and plots that explore other aspects of life. It was extremely refreshing to watch a movie with a plot that was separate from but respected Sam’s identity without erasing it.
It was also great to watch Sam and her girlfriend Rose’s relationship develop over the course of the film—from awkward first dates, to confiding in and emotionally supporting each other. Clemon’s exceptional ability to portray character development through non-verbal means elevated her performance and played a huge role in what made their relationship so special. I think the support these two had for each other in their flourishing relationship can be encapsulated in the advice that Rose gives to her girlfriend: “you have to be brave before you can be good.” This film did a beautiful job depicting a selfless and healthy relationship, which grew and developed on screen effortlessly.
But this movie isn’t without its flaws. The pacing felt a little strange at times, and the dialogue in a few of the scenes seemed somewhat unnatural. There was another romantic side-plot featuring Frank, which felt a little clumsy and forced at times because there simply wasn’t enough screen-time to make the audience invested in the relationship. Ultimately, they were small things, and did not diminish all the things this film did right.
Which leads me to talk about how perfect Nick Offerman was at playing the excitable Frank Fisher. I did not expect to find myself laughing throughout this film as much as I did. Offerman played a huge role in elevating this otherwise poignant movie, into one that was also genuinely funny and entertaining. I saw this movie with my brother who, not even halfway through, leaned over to me and whispered, “Nick Offerman plays the dad that everyone deserves,” and I could not agree with him more. The heart, humour, and emotion that he brings to the role of Frank is phenomenal—literally lighting up the screen each time he smiles and starts talking passionately about music. Words cannot describe how much joy it brought me to see him run at high speeds down the street, while clumsily holding a box of whoopee pies, to tell his daughter that their song was playing in a café.
Which brings me to my absolute favourite thing about the film—Frank and Sam’s relationship. The ease that Offerman and Clemons had with each other translated to a father-daughter dynamic that felt real, loving, and heart-warming on screen. The scenes in which they make music together served not only for entertainment, but also for further character growth, and played an integral part of the film. Both Clemens and Offerman were magnificent, and I really can’t imagine the film having the same effect without those two leads.
Hearts Beat Loud isn’t an artistic masterpiece, but it doesn’t have to be; it’s more about the feeling you get while watching this film, and I mean it when I say that this was a real feel good movie. It may be cliché, but this film truly made me laugh and cry, and I left the theatre feeling full.
Hearts Beat Loud begins screening at Luna Cinemas today.