Frank Fisher (Nick Offerman) is a father and musician who owns a record store in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. But business isn't what it used to be and after 17 years selling records, Frank is ready to give up his lease and close up shop.
And it's not the only upheaval Frank is facing. His daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) is preparing to move to California to study medicine. She's smart and sensible, often playing the grown-up to her free-spirited father (Sam's mother was killed in an accident years ago, making Frank a single father). Sam is not just leaving her father - she's in a relationship with an artist named Rose (Sasha Lane) and is trying to enjoy every last minute with her before summer ends.
At the same time, Frank wants to spend as much time with his daughter as he can and encourages Sam to play music with him. They jam together and eventually come up with a song. Frank records the song and puts it on Spotify. The song makes it onto a popular playlist and Frank draws up plans for touring and writing more songs.
Sam isn't having anything to do with it. When Frank asks her what their band should be called, she replies, 'We're not a band', which is what Frank names the band. Sam, despite possessing obvious musical talent, seems set on medical school.
Directed by Brett Haley, Hearts Beat Loud is a cheerful and gentle film. Initially, there seems a lot going on. There's the record store closing and the need for Frank to find employment. There's Sam ready to leave her Dad and her girlfriend. There's Frank with his very low-key crush on his landlady, Leslie (Toni Colette). There's Frank's friend Dave, played by Ted Danson, who owns and operates the local bar and smokes a fair bit of pot. And there's Frank's mother, played by Blythe Danner, who with increasing frequency is being detained for shoplifting, presumably due to dementia.
Despite all of this, the film's pace is often languid, and many of the storylines fizzle out without going anywhere. Even so, there is much to like - notably Sam's giddily happy relationship with Rose (and Frank's loving reaction to it). You can be forgiven for forgetting about the many story arcs which seem to dissolve.
At the core of the film is the relationship between Frank and Sam, and this is thanks to fine performances. Nick Offerman's Frank is pretty much impossible not to like. He's obviously a bit of a curmudgeon, but he loves his daughter and you can see the strain her upcoming absence will have on him. Kiersey Clemons is also fantastic as Sam, and as the vocalist for We're Not a Band can sure hold a tune.
Many may feel that Hearts Beat Loud misses the mark with a potential never quite reached. But the film's likeable characters, questioning of life's transitions, and even its sweet pop music make it an agreeable escape from the world.