A touching blend of A Walk to Remember and Country Strong, Forever My Girl is the heartwarming film that we all need to kick off 2018. 3.5 out of 5.
Liam Page (Alex Roe) is an international country music superstar who left his high school love, Josie, (Jessica Rothe) in the small-town Louisiana dust when he was discovered. After eight years of living the high life, he returns to town to find the feelings he had for Josie remain, even though both of their lives look completely different. While Liam has been busy playing concerts for sold-out venues and burying his feelings in alcohol, drugs, and uncommitted relationships, Josie has been raising Billy, a precocious 7-year-old who (surprise!) belongs to Liam. Liam has to clean up his act if he wants to be in their lives; even then, there is no guarantee that Josie will forgive him for his past transgressions, or if she has feelings for him in return.
This is the movie for country music lovers. The soundtrack features a perfect mix of songs from country radio and originals, and it sets the tone for the entire film. So much of the story itself is heartwarming, especially the relationships we see blossom between characters. My favorite was the relationship between Liam and his father, the town pastor. Pastor Brian (John Benjamin Hickey) shows the audience a side of the pastor that is not usually seen from the church pews. His son cut him out of his life; he is hurt and disappointed. The emotion between father and son feels raw and real. If romance is what you are looking for, prepare for a date that puts The Bachelor to shame. I'm a sucker for a montage of character transformation, and Forever My Girl does not disappoint in that area.
The plotline is a little predictable, but I was able to overlook that because it is just so heartwarming. An exchange between Liam and Josie which is a major turning point of the film feels somewhat awkward and forced as Roe's eyes appear fixated above Rothe's head. There are a few holes in the plot, specifically regarding Liam's drug and alcohol problem. I was left wondering if his issues were so severe that he would require further treatment; it is unclear if he was an addict. The trailer gives away way too much; the audience will know most of the major plot points ahead of time if they've viewed it. Also, if by chance you were turned off by the movie's poster (it makes the film look cheesier than necessary with an overly-photoshopped sunset), Forever My Girl is better than its marketing.
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
The story as a whole parallels The Prodigal Son (see video below), as Liam returns to town after squandering years of his life. In a Sunday sermon, Pastor Brian preaches about mercy and forgiveness. Forgiveness becomes a recurring theme of the film, as many characters struggle to forgive Liam, and he struggles to forgive himself. Liam clearly feels guilt and shame for his past, calling himself a bad person as he apologizes to his father. We also see his character reborn after he turns away from sin, and starts a new life as a better man.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
- MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements including drinking, and for language
- Language/Profanity: Though the film's PG rating includes a note about language, this critic caught none so it must be very subtle.
- Sexuality/Nudity: Liam wakes up with a young woman in his room presumably after a one night stand; Liam sleeps in boxers.
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: Character punches another in the stomach, though not seriously injured.
Drugs/Alcohol: Liam's father alludes to his son's drinking and drug problem, though the audience never sees any drug paraphernalia; Liam shown drunk on a couple occasions; Josie drinks beer and wine (on separate occasions) and says she's tipsy, Josie talks about drinking "tons of champagne."
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of the book, hopeless romantics, Christian film fans, country music lovers, families with tweens or older children.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Small children, people who hate country music, those looking for unexpected plot twists and action.
Forever My Girl, directed by Bethany Ashton Wolf, opens in theaters January 19, 2018. It runs 104 minutes and stars Alex Roe, Jessica Rothe, Abby Ryder Fortson, John Benjamin Hickey, Travis Tritt and Judith Hoag. Watch the trailer for Forever My Girl here.
Carrie Dedrick is the editor for Family content at Crosswalk.com.
Publication date: January 18, 2018
Image courtesy: ©Roadside/LD