Studies show that when two people play music with one another, their brainwaves sync. Music is a connective force that brings together people in a way that nothing else can. “Hearts Beat” runs with theme of connect through music, showing just how sounds can create bonds between people.
The film, directed by Brett Haley (“The Hero”) follows a father and daughter duo, Frank (Nick Offerman) and Sam (Kiersey Clemons) as the live in free float for the summer. Offerman plays Frank as a more jaded and world weary John Cusack from “High Fidelity”, in which he’s running a record shop that’s going out of business. Sam is getting ready for her first year of college across the country, trying to move forward with her life.
The crux of the film is the relationship between this father and daughter trying to figure out the right pace in which to move through life. For Frank, he is trying to hold onto the past, as indicated by the records, another chance at playing music or worry for his daughter. Sam is firmly looking towards the future, trying to outrun the pains of the past. The tension of the film boils down to these two not being on the same page, and their desires for the summer pull them in different directions. Both also are caught in budding relationships, but while Sam’s prospers into something positive, Frank is unable to forge a lasting connection.
After a fun and funky family jam night, Frank decides to upload the song that his daughter and he created to Spotify, under the band name We Are Not a Band. Days later, Frank hears it on an indie playlist on the streaming service in a coffee shop. This becomes the catalyst of the two actually beginning to write music. The film crescendos to a full on performance from We Are Not a Band at the closing of the record shop.
Haley’s direction is wise when he films these scenes of the two performing. They exist as micro expressions of the film’s thesis, which is a focus on the characters, and what they are feeling, rather than highlighting flashy performances or moments. It takes restraint to place the camera to just watch the performance, and Haley trusts the actors to carry the energy and weight of the songs being played.
The heart of the film lies in its soundtrack, being a mix of both original and established songs. Just as a song is created by moving parts, the film shows the formation of the duos songs. One key scene is Frank sitting alone after a fight with daughter, generating a riff that reflects the melancholy of his character. This riff is strategically placed in this scene to help to externalize the characters broken heart. It is repeated later in the film during the big performance to support and add to a song that his daughter wrote. It is these repeating bits of music throughout the film that give a sense of emotional continuity, telegraphing to the audience where the emotions for these songs come from.
“Hearts Beat Loud” is a film that takes advantage of its focus on music to create meaning and character through the formation of songs. It is a realistic, but ultimately feel good movie about learning to connect with others, and how to sometimes change your pace in life to do that. The film was picked up at the SXSW festival, and expecting a summer release date.