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Heartwarming drama with lesbian love

by David-Elijah Nahmod

Sasha Lane and Kiersey Clemons star in "Hearts Beat Loud." Photo: Gunpowder & Sky
Sasha Lane and Kiersey Clemons star in "Hearts Beat Loud." Photo: Gunpowder & Sky  

One of the most delightful aspects of "Hearts Beat Loud," a sweet, heartwarming drama opening in theaters on June 15, is the casual nature with which the screenplay deals with the lesbianism of the story's female lead.

Sam (Kiersey Clemons) is a young woman who lives with Frank, her widowed father (Nick Offerman). The two share a spacious loft in Red Hook, a trendy neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. Dad is a failed musician who runs a record store. He yearns to get back into playing, composing and recording music. Sam is a musical prodigy who wants to become a doctor. On a lark, the two record a song in their apartment, which Frank posts on Spotify. To his surprise, the song goes viral. Sam and Frank start getting offers to perform. Whether or not they will take to the stage together, and whether or not Frank's record store will survive the rising rents in their hipster hood, become the story's focus. The fact that Sam is a lesbian who has a girlfriend is never talked about; it's simply accepted as a normal fact of life.

Nor is it discussed that Sam is mixed race - her late mom was black, while Frank is white. Sam, as she's presented in "Hearts Beat Loud," is a lovely example of American society's new normal. We have largely become a society where race and sexual identity no longer matter. Sam never needs to "come out." She meets another girl, they go out on a date and quickly fall in love. Neither Sam nor anyone else in her sphere gives it a second thought. "Do you have a girlfriend or a boyfriend?" Frank casually asks his daughter.

The scenes between Sam and her girlfriend Rose (Sasha Lane) are a delight. It's first love for both, and they fall for each other hard, even as they realize their time may be limited. Sam will soon be moving across the country to go to medical school. In one touching scene, Rose teaches Sam how to ride a bicycle, which Sam had been afraid to do in the aftermath of her mom's death in a biking accident.

The film also focuses on the deep father-daughter love between Sam and Frank. Frank is a middle-aged man coming to grips with the fact that none of his dreams have come true. He sees the song he recorded with Sam as his last chance. He's slowly forced to accept the reality that he and Sam want different things, and that he needs to let her go.

"Hearts Beat Loud" is not the kind of mega-blockbuster moviegoers flock to. It's a quiet, reflective film, featuring characters who feel things deeply. The film gets a boost from its soft rock score, beautifully performed by stars Offerman and Clemons. You couldn't ask for a more heartfelt evening at the movies.

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