Hearts Beat Loud
Saturday, May 5, 2:30 p.m.
Wellmont Theater, 5 Seymour St.
Q&A with director Brett Haley and Nick Offerman to follow.
Fiction Centerpiece

By Andrew Garda

The core of “Hearts Beat Loud,” a film by director Brett Haley that is a centerpiece of the Montclair Film Festival, will feel familiar to just about any parent with an upperclassmen in high school.

Frank (played by Nick Offerman in a role as far from his Ron Swanson on “Parks and Recreation” as you can get) is preparing to send his only child, Sam (a talented Kiersey Clemons) across the country to UCLA.

She may be ready, but he’s not. Which is why, when their father-daughter song resulting from a living room “jam sesh” becomes a hit on Spotify, Frank leverages it to try and keep Sam close to home.

As a dad with a kid just a year away from potentially joining Sam on the West Coast, it’s something I can connect with.

Your job is to help your child prepare to leave one day, but as a parent, it’s very easy to ignore the fact that, yes they will actually leave.

Frank is a loving, supporting dad, a “cool dad.” In fact, he’s a guy who wants his kid to blow off a night of studying to sing, play keyboards and mess around. It’s a testament to the fact that he did a good job that Sam resists — not only that first session, but also creating a band once the single seems to generate interest.

Frank’s not prepared to hear it. And who is? We can relate.

Sure, Frank’s efforts to slow his daughter down as she walks out the door and heads to Los Angeles are a both more unique and extreme than anything most parents will come up with, but at its heart, his pain isn’t any different.

I won’t try and tempt my son to stay in Montclair by starting a band. But in many ways, as Frank lives out his desperate fantasy to keep his daughter home, he’s vicariously giving parents in the audience permission to do the same, even if they never would.

Sam, like every child hurtling to adulthood, knows in the end — better than her father does — that life is for moving forward, and that in order to achieve her best self she has to live outside the comfort zone, which her dad is offering.

In the end, Frank does what we all must do — he lets go.

And Sam does what my kids, and every child, has to do — moves on.

A scene from "Hearts Beat Loud." COURTESY MONTCLAIR FILM
A scene from "Hearts Beat Loud." COURTESY MONTCLAIR FILM

Of course, that doesn’t mean we won’t fight it every step of the way just like Frank does. Which is why I am pleased to announce the formation of the “Garda Traveling Montclair Band,” which will feature both my soon-to-be-senior and soon-to-be-eighth grader. They’re both very excited. Or will be, when I tell them about it.