Liam Page (Alex Roe) is a country music superstar who left his bride Josie (Jessica Rothe) at the altar to pursue fame and fortune. Page never got over Josie, his one true love, or forgot his Southern roots in the small community where he was born and raised. Now, he must unexpectedly face the consequences of his actions when he returns to his hometown for the funeral of his best friend from high school.
Taking just one look at the poster for Bethany Ashton Wolf’s Forever My Girl will probably remind you of those ridiculously sappy and corny Nicholas Sparks movies even if you have no idea what the film is about. The marketing just has that sappy romantic drama feel to it that’s so hard to shake.
A lot of people tend to loathe these movies and understandably so, but if they are sweet and uplifting enough, I usually tend to get at least some enjoyment out of them. Nicholas Sparks movies aren’t really my favorites but I genuinely love The Notebook, even if it has a lot of flaws. It’s just a hard-hitting romantic drama that’s further accelerated by the wonderful performances from both Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. They both feel extremely raw and layered as Noah and Allie, and by the time the movie comes to a close, if you’re not crying then I don’t know what else to say to you besides “How?!”.
So while these kinds of movies aren’t my favorite, I went into Forever My Girl just because I wanted to watch a movie that would be uplifting and maybe put a smile on my face. That’s literally all I wanted out of this film because I really didn’t expect it to be much else. And after watching Forever My Girl I can say that I had a great time with this film. It definitely put a smile on my face and had some touching moments even if this kind of story is hilariously predictable and even though it’s a story we have seen time and time again in the past.
The movie lets you know fairly early on that Liam Page is kind of a massive jerk. While getting her wedding dress on and getting prepared for the big day, a friend of Josie’s tells her that Liam is not coming to the wedding anymore. He literally just left the town and nobody that he was close with has heard from him in eight years.
We see that he has become a wildly successful country singer and performs at sold-out concerts across the world on a tour so popular it would put some of today’s real-world artists to shame. Even Liam’s own father hasn’t heard from him in eight years. And when he attends one of his concerts and gets backstage passes just to try to talk to his son, Liam doesn’t even pay attention to him and seems to not recognize his own father.
There are breadcrumbs that are left throughout the course of the movie that helps us to figure out why he left in the first place. The movie wisely understands that Liam, even by the end of the movie, is still kind of a jerk. But he is a redeemable jerk and one that you can eventually get behind and understand after a while. Once the second act comes into play, the film becomes quite uplifting and sweet to watch, even if it is full of tropes that are kind of hard to have to push through.
The most wildly unrealistic thing about Forever My Girl, though, is just how famous the character of Liam Page is. Now, I personally really enjoy country music. Not all of it mind you, but I have a long list of country songs downloaded to my phone that I absolutely adore listening to. Some country music just speaks to me on a deeply personal level and it’s a genre that gets unfair hatred.
Some of my favorite artists of today are Luke Combs, Thomas Rhett, Florida Georgia Line, and Lady A. And while each one of these artists is popular, they aren’t so popular to the point where if they even stepped foot outside, they would have a crowd of about fifty people rushing up to them asking for an autograph. But in Forever My Girl, Liam Page may as well be as famous as Taylor Swift or something.
There’s a scene early on where he is having a bad day and simply doesn’t want anybody to take his picture or ask him for an autograph that day. The second he walks outside, there are about twenty people that quite literally chase him around the town as he desperately attempts to flee from them. He even enters a cell phone shop to get his phone repaired that got broken in the previous scene, and he is treated like he is part of the Royal Family or something.
All of the employees start to surround him and say how much they love him and they say that they will give him a discount just because he is even page. What’s even funnier is that a moment later, the store manager comes out and offers him a brand new phone. Liam says he likes his old phone but he just wants it repaired. So they fix it for him completely free of charge.
I know it’s such a small thing to tear into, but it was crystal clear upon watching the film that screenwriter Wolf has no idea how popular country music singers actually are in today’s world. You may be famous, but not even somebody like Luke Bryan would get this much attention on a public street or inside a cell phone repair shop.
And I could go on all day about how poorly written the character of Billy (Abby Ryder Fortson) is. Fortson did the best she could with the script that she was given, but this character is established as being seven years old, but she says things that absolutely no seven-year-old in the world would ever say. It’s clear that she was a comedic relief character but she just didn’t work at all for me. Her character was incredibly cringe-worthy even if the actress did the best job that she could.
But aside from some of the touching moments that occur in the final thirty minutes of the film (which even still are a bit cheesy), my favorite aspect to Forever My Girl is the lead performances by Alex Roe and Jessica Rothe.
Before watching this film, I had absolutely no idea who Alex Roe was. It’s surprising that the vast majority of his filmography is filled with bad films because he actually has some strong talent. Here, in the role of Liam Page, he actually does feel like a washed-up musician who really wants to get his life back together. Sometimes, all you have to do is look into his eyes to see that he is hurting.
Now, anybody that has been reading my reviews for a while probably knows by this point that Jessica Rothe is in my top three favorite actresses of the modern era, and so I was incredibly excited to see if she would deliver the goods yet again, this time in the role of Josie. And.. of course, she did.
At this point, it would be a shocker if Rothe turned in a performance that was anything less than phenomenal. I’m genuinely baffled how she hasn’t been cast in some major motion picture yet like one of the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or some high-profile thriller or something because she is an absolute revelation. Why has she not won an Oscar yet? It’s a question I ask myself all the time, and yet I hope that the day comes soon where I will see her on stage holding that elusive golden trophy.
So really, Forever My Girl is pretty much exactly what I suspected it was going to be. This movie has its fair share of cute moments sprinkled throughout and has some strong performances even though it is hilariously cheesy, has some questionable dialogue, and a predictable story. It’s not a wonderful or game-changing movie by any means, but it works as a nice pick-me-up.
Overall Grade: B-
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements including drinking, and for language
Directed by: Bethany Ashton Wolf
Written by: Bethany Ashton Wolf
Distributed by: Roadside Attractions
Release Date: January 19, 2018
Running Time: 104 minutes