Combining ‘90s riot grrrl, electronic essence and a Grammy-nominated composer — the “Sophie Jones” soundtrack is truly one of a kind.
The acclaimed independent film “Sophie Jones” was written and directed by Jessie Barr, who’s based in Los Angeles. The film illustrates growing up with grief. Receiving praise from Indiewire, Variety and a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, “Sophie Jones” is a standout film with indie spirit. It’s delicate, personal and captures a further look at loss.
The film centers around 16-year-old protagonist, Sophie Jones. After tragically losing her mother, she struggles to navigate through high school. As a coping mechanism, Sophie turns her attention to her sexual identity. Director Jessie Barr lost her dad at the same age and spent many years of her life grieving. Sixteen years later, she created the script.
Barr defines the soundtrack as “three sonic universes.” The first universe consists of the original score. The second universe consists of textured sounds, another word for sound effects. The third is a needle drop which is using existing music in a film.
The first part of the soundtrack features riot grrrl-inspired indie acts. For those who don’t know, riot grrrl is a punk subculture, frequently linked to third-wave feminism that took hold during the 1990s. The music is loud, angry and female-fronted. Additionally, the soundtrack also has catchy, electronic and dance party music. It truly captures the rebellious nature of youth through flashy beats and bass lines.
Barr curated songs from The Crystal Creative, a Portland-based boutique, record company and music licensing agency. She also searched on Bandcamp and Soundcloud for local artists. The final compilation is composed of local bands from Oregon as well as a few from Oakland, home to Nate Heller.
“It’s also important because this is a film of discovery with a lot of emerging talent and I wanted that to carry over to the music as well and support local and upcoming bands,” Barr said.
The second half of the soundtrack contains an instrumental score by Grammy-nominated composer, Nate Heller. Heller is most notable for his contributions to the Sundance and Berlin award-winning film, “The Diary Of A Teenage Girl.” He then went on to score two Academy Award-nominated films, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood,” for which he received a 2019 BMI Award for his original music. Heller’s work for “Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood” also earned him a Grammy nomination.
Nate Heller’s tracks on the film consist of ambient instrumentals, similar to the soundtrack to “The Virgin Suicides,” composed by Air. Many of his songs foreshadow the story with tracks like “Hickey” and “Ashes Into the Sea.” The score prepares the audience for emotional moments with moody and minor chord progressions. His musical style can best be described as icy and cool on an analog synth.
Heller’s musical talent originates from playing in Wendy Darling, his previous band. He began his career in film music by traveling nationwide, whose popularity allowed him to carve himself a niche in the industry.
While “Sophie Jones” centers around a teenage girl, Heller’s connection to the film relates from a parental point of view. He had just become a father to a newborn kid as he was writing the score. Emotionally, this is where he taps into and pulls out his ideas for the score.
Heller said the musical score should help guide the viewer to where Sophie’s thoughts wander. It should encapsulate when she’s alone with herself.
“As a composer, I have to take the viewer somewhere emotionally, if they need a little push to get out of the way of storytelling as much as possible,” Heller said.
Despite the endless releases of “coming of age” films in the past decade, Jessie Barr doesn’t see it as competition. In fact, it is one of her favorite genres. When creating the script, she took inspiration from films such as “Mustang” and “Too Late to Die Young.”
“I just wanted to make people feel accompanied, regardless of your age and gender,” Barr said.
The authenticity of “Sophie Jones” is its greatest asset. Both the musicians and the actors were making their debuts. Many of the cast members had little experience in the film industry.
Released under Gardener Recordings, the soundtrack is set to release on April 1 across all streaming services. It is also available to pre-save.
Since the film’s 2021 release, Jessie Barr has been working on a number of television shows. She’s working on a future feature with another writer and is also directing another project. While working on her next film, she hopes to collaborate with Heller again.
Nate Heller is also working on a feature picture at the moment. No spoilers, but he said it’s a bit “out-of-the-box.” He’s also working on his own music and is currently working on a pop record with his best friend.
Jolie Asuncion can be reached at [email protected]