That summer before university is fertile ground for coming of age stories, but the roles are inverted in Hearts Beat Loud. Daughter Sam has her life planned out, choosing to spend her last holiday at home taking extra classes before school begins. Her dad Frank is not so certain, after seventeen years, he can no longer afford to run his record store. A lifelong musician, both father and daughter unwind by making music together in a kitted-out rehearsal space at home.
They represent two different generations. Frank, played by a bearded Nick Offerman, is the rock ‘n’ roll to Sam’s sounds of the zeitgeist. She is played by Kiersey Clemons who sings all of Sam’s lead vocals live, keeping that rock ‘n’ roll authentic. Frank knows his way around a guitar, but Sam can sample, allowing the father and daughter duo to sound like a full band.
Frank latches on to his dreams of a career in music, but Sam is realistic. She has worked hard to study medicine, on the other side of the country no less. Even as she strikes up a relationship with an artist called Rose, the temporary nature of their romance and the music she makes with her dad hangs over Hearts Beat Loud. She is leaving soon.
This thoughtfulness is akin to the films of John Carney, particularly Once, in which a similarly inevitable departure hangs over the main couple. Frank has raised Sam on his own after the death of his wife, and with her studies about to begin, he risks losing her and his livelihood at the same time. He finds solace in music, but clings to Sam’s role as his bandmate, a band called We’re Not a Band after her protestations. It bonds him with her, while giving him an outlet to sing about what he has lost and is soon to lose.
And yet, it shares a spirit with School of Rock, believing in the power of music and its ability to love and heal. This is an upbeat film filled with catchy songs and musical montages, cool references and inspiring performances. It believes in music and the goodness of people, and how life’s hardships can be weathered because of them.
Hearts Beat Loud is Frank’s coming of age story, about letting go and how to keep on keeping on. It is told with such vibrancy and such an uncynical view of its characters’ passions and worries. In its cosiness is a film with a huge heart, one that is immediate and memorable. It’s only rock ‘n’ roll.
Heart Beats Loud is screening today in Edinburgh’s Filmhouse