My Rating: B
It’s easy to be cynical about love. There are countless movies (and country songs) about cynics who have been betrayed in love and haunted by heartbreak. That’s how the new film Forever My Girl begins, but the new feature has little interest in wallowing in such pain.
Alex Rowe stars as Liam Page. He left his fiancé Josie (Jessica Rothe) at the altar and went on to become a country superstar. He said goodbye to his past and his past said goodbye to him. Years later, he's reminded of that past when a childhood friend dies tragically. After finishing a concert nearby, he returns to his hometown.
The concept sets up a sweet sentimental character arc for Liam, who slowly realizes how much he missed out on. He rekindles a relationship with Josie and moves back in with his father, the local pastor (John Benjamin Hickey). He also discovers that he has a daughter he never knew about.
There aren’t many major surprises in this sentimental journey of redemption but this isn’t a film that needs to rely on twists or turns. Instead, it succeeds in sweetly presenting Page’s slow reawakening in his hometown.
Writer/director Bethany Ashton Wolf relies on the small moments to build these characters. The film’s best moments capture the feature’s hopeful tone. A particular highlight is watching Liam connect with the daughter he never knew he had (Abby Ryder Fortson). Both Rowe (whose charisma and charm shines through onscreen) and Fortson have an easy chemistry that really makes these characters stand out. The relationship isn't defined by the anger she might feel. It's defined by their eagerness to connect with one another. When Liam opens up about his past and starts escorting her home from school, we see that bond begin to build.
Page's bond with Josie also comes across well, showing both Josie's independence (she rejects him at first) and her optimism that he can become the man she always wanted.
The local community is refreshingly hospitable towards their prodigal son. The anger they may have once shared has dissipated, giving Liam the opportunity to start out fresh in a town he knew so well. To its credit, the story is more interested in showcasing the rehabilitation of the country star rather than focusing on confrontations about his past. Josie's brother Jake (Tyler Riggs) plays the main voice of opposition to Liam's return but his character never becomes as meddlesome as one would suspect early on.
This journey isn't about the past. It's about the future and how one can always change their present circumstances.
Liam starts thinking about changing his life and creating something he never had. A stable relationship with his former fiancé. A strong kinship with the daughter he never knew. A positive connection with the father he pushed away. These are the relationships that define this feature and each one them grows naturally in this optimistic story.
There are plenty of country songs about broken relationships growing again and this feature brings some of those ideas brought to life in a sweet and hopeful story (that also features a few solid country tunes of its own). Although three primary relationships take center stage, there’s also room here for a few genuine supporting characters. One of the standouts here is Doris (Gillian Vigman), Liam’s highly-motivated publicist. Her frantic energy showcases a strong counterpoint to the story’s laidback nature.
Forever My Girl presents a straightforward narrative but it's refreshing, charming and entertaining. It could even put a smile on the faces of even a few cynics.
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