Not so long ago, parents old enough to send their kids off to college would wind down a hectic day by spinning Frank Sinatra and Doris Day on the hi-fi. Today’s version of those parents have Sonic Youth and Sleater-Kinney on their Spotify.
In Brett Haley’s Hearts Beat Loud, Nick Offerman’s Frank Fisher is one of those parents, so much a teenager at heart that you’d think he wouldn’t have too much trouble letting go of his bound-for-college daughter. A onetime singer and musician who runs a record store–the vinyl kind–in the hip Brooklyn nabe of Red Hook, he thinks it’s time to start his third act, though he has no idea what that should be. Meanwhile, his daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons), whom he has raised alone in the years since her mother’s death, is running toward her future. She wants to be a doctor, and she’ll soon be leaving for school on the West Coast. She’s also got some singing and songwriting chops, and one night, after Frank persuades her to lay off the books and jam with him–a little routine of theirs that Sam seems to be outgrowing–the two come up with an accidental semi-hit.
Writer-director Haley (I’ll See You in My Dreams, The Hero) makes modest pictures about segments of life that almost don’t seem consequential enough to be movie subjects, like finding love later rather than sooner, and sending a kid off to college when you still feel like a kid yourself. But movies don’t have to be bigger and bolder than we ourselves are. Haley’s films are things we can reach toward–there’s an intimacy and candor about them that feels welcoming.
And he always finds the right performers for the job. Offerman, with his rumpled-T-shirt of a scowl, is the quintessential half dad, half boy, though he’s more than ready to grow out of the latter role. The always marvelous Toni Collette plays Frank’s friend and landlady, Leslie, who gives him sound advice when he needs it and shuts his nonsense down when that’s what he deserves. And Clemons–a gifted musician who does her own singing here–is lovely as a young woman who is eager to make her own way, even though she has to tear up some roots to do it. Kids grow up before we know it. Sometimes it’s only after they leave the nest that parents can resume growing up themselves.
This appears in the June 25, 2018 issue of TIME.