Forever My Girl
Written/Directed by: Bethany Ashton Wolf from the book of the same name written by bestselling author Heidi McLaughlin
Starring: Alex Roe, Jessica Rothe, Abby Ryder Fortson, Morgan Alexandria, Grammy Award® winner Travis Tritt and Tony Award® winner John Benjamin Hickey
Run Time: 1h 44min
Genre: Drama, Music, Romance
2 ½ Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
High School sweethearts, Liam (Roe) and Josie (Rothe) are about to get married. We open on Josie and her maid of honor, Kiera (Alexandria), getting her ready for her march down the aisle when through the door comes some devastatingly bad news… her groom isn’t coming. We cut to eight years later and find out why he left sweet and innocent Josie before her brother could walk her to meet Liam at the altar. Fame and fortune came knocking on his door in a big way (think Blade Shelton) and Mr. Liam Page answered it with a fast lurch of enthusiasm and a bit of self-indulgence, not thinking much about who was getting left behind and hurt in the process. He no longer had time for a wife; only for himself. When we see Liam again, he’s on stage singing “Don’t Water Down My Whiskey,” which is not only quite good but Alex Roe does sing it himself for the film. Liam performs for a sell-out stadium crowd and has a team of people taking care of him. Fans scream for him to return to the stage after his last song, but he makes his way to his manager and insists he gets him a particular girl in the front row that he had been eyeballing all night.
I’m thinking this is to get us a bit hot under the collar at his behavior. It doesn’t exactly work because we can tell right away that he’s isn’t like a sailor; isn’t ‘a girl in every port’ kind of guy. The girl he sees reminds him of Josie, for whom he has been unable to forget, though he had definitely left her behind to ache… alone. It’s obvious in some of the following scenes that he has never really tried to rid his memory of her and that outside of casual sex, thinking of her is his only real connection to anyone.
Liam learns that his best friend from High School is killed in a car accident and he takes off for home, leaving behind an already scheduled tour and stunned manager and publicist losing his mind.
Here, the narrative gets a little confusing because he has become incredibly successful, which takes a lot of discipline and when he goes back home, it’s implied or downright said buy his father, Pastor Brian (Hickey) that he had gotten into drugs and was a bit of a mess. That perplexity notwithstanding, it’s a good build up, even though you do see what’s coming. Though the story wants you to be really irritated with his character, you do like him and you hope that while he’s in town to go to his friends funeral, that he’ll run into Josie.
So, he runs into Josie and he tries to apologize for his behavior. He tells her that he knows he had put his wants and desires before hers. He wants her to believe him when he says he realizes that you can, basically, have your cake and eat it, too.
Happy to see she’s had success as well, he goes to the flower shop that she owns, to ask her out. She shows him something else that his selfishness caused him to miss out on when he left. She introduces him to her daughter, Billy (Fortson). She was named after Liam’s mother. Seeing her and hearing her name, he immediately knows what he could never replace and what he missed… the birth of his daughter and being there for her and watching her grow up. Billy is smart, cute and nothing gets by her, much like the actress who played her.
Liam begs to be a part of her life and must now prove he is worthy to be in it. A scene where Billy complains about riding in his convertible is simply priceless. She doesn’t make jumping into fatherhood easy on him but they get used to one another and she warms up to him rather quickly. When he buys her a guitar, they bond over music and suddenly you can just imagine where a sequel could go.
Forever My Girl follows the pattern of formulaic scripts that have come before it. It’s a, ‘boy leaves girl at altar to seek fame and fortune but his roots in the town and in family are buried deep and can’t be pulled out quite so easily’ story. But at its core, it’s loving and it has a good message of forgiveness. It works. It has a slow-motion, playful montage scene to complete the look but it gives us something that many films of the genre do not; a strong leading male character who’s sensitive and willing to admit he’s wrong and give up everything for his true love… loves.