Hearts Beat Loud
By Peter Nittler With on February 05, 2018

“Love” can be more of a taunt than a descriptor. Its brevity betrays it as those four letters cannot possibly contain all the nuances, yearnings, and even pains that are wrapped up in what it attempts to denote. It is like trying to explain the anatomy of a joke – it needs to be felt, not understood. Brett Haley’s Hearts Beat Loud, starring Nick Offerman as Frank, a middle-aged father and ex-musician who is forced to say goodbye to his record shop and his daughter, Sam (Kiersey Clemons), opts not to define “love,” but to feel it. At its core, this movie centers around the messy yet marvelous love shared between Frank and Sam. As the relationship necessarily changes with the latter going to college, there are very few “I love you’s” shared. Instead, the two form, “We’re Not a Band” (another example of words’ inability to capture the truth?) which gives them the avenue to show and experience their mutual love even when words fail. Along the way, Sam is aided by music to communicate her love to her girlfriend, Rose (Sasha Lane), and Frank is finally able to process the enormity of the emotions following his wife’s death. Still, the heart of the movie (which of course, beats loudly) is the way Frank and Sam communicate their love and deal with change via the music of We’re Not a Band. Importantly, the audience never sees the actual goodbye between father and daughter – but we do get a final send off in the form of a farewell concert during the last day of Sam’s time at home and of business for Frank’s record store where it is quite clear that the all parties involved have understood the depth of one another’s love. We don’t need to be told of the love Frank has for Sam, or vice versa, we need only see the admiration on Frank’s face as his guitar accompanies Sam’s vocals; and to hear the affection and gratitude in Sam’s voice during her first solo performance in college: “I wrote this song with my dad.” “God loves you” can also feel like a taunt despite its import. And when it is difficult to understand what that love looks like, how it works, and what it means, the world is invited to see the Word become flesh, Jesus Christ, as the answer. Whereas music soared higher than words for Frank and Sam, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus shows us the love of the Father in ways we could have never otherwise glimpsed. And, luckily, for those of us 2,000 years after God’s Word became flesh who still might be wondering how the Father thinks of us, it is helpful to watch Frank gaze at Sam, enter in with Sam, and delight in Sam with pride, love, and joy to think, “if the Father’s love looks anything like Frank at his best… I am surely loved, indeed.”

About the Author: Peter Nittler
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