Forever My Girl

 

                This is a slight variation on the old tried-and-true formula:  boy meets girl.  Boy and girl fall in love.  Boy and girl have a falling out.  Boy and girl get back together.  The variations are in the trials and tribulations in between.

                Liam Page (Alex Roe) and Josie (Jessica Rothe) grew up together in a small town in Louisiana, where everybody knows everybody.  Which means everybody showed up for their wedding.  Except Liam.  He bolted. 

                Turns out heíd just recorded his first country song, and it was a hit, and the promoter wanted him to tour, and write more songs, and pretty soon the road became easier than facing going home again.  He never even returned her phone call.  Though he did keep the message on his old phone, and listened to it every day.

                Fast-forward eight years.  Liamís got his own private jet, an entourage, adoring fans, and an obliging personal manager who will arrange for the chosen groupie to be in his hotel room that night.  Heís famous, all right, but heís flaming out on the excess of partying and lack of moral compass.  And thatís when he hears on the television that his boyhood friend was killed in a car crash.  And suddenly he knows he has to go home again.

                Except that home isnít exactly how he left it.  Everybodyís changed, especially their attitude toward him.  But the biggest shocker is that Josie has a daughter whoís seven years old.  Yep, Liam is still sharp enough to do the math, and realizes thatís his daughter heís meeting for the first time.  Billy (Abby Ryder Forston) is short for her age, but precocious.  And precious.

                We all know where this is headed.  But itís not exactly easy getting there.  Josie is understandably not ready to pick up where they left off.  But itís Billy who charms everyone into overcoming their guilt and their grudges.

                Thereís several flaws in the movie, just as there are in the characters.  Theyíre not consistent with the way Liam is mobbed by fans in some public places and goes unrecognized in others.  And the little hometown is like a bubble where the outside world canít come in.  Billy talks a lot like an adult and almost never like a child.  Liamís brooding seems more like posing.

                But there are things to like about the movie, as well.  Liamís Dad, Pastor Brian (John Benjamin Hickey) is a realistic, relatable minister, a rare positive clergy role in a contemporary film.  The musical scenes are pleasant without being overpowering or parodying.  And, of course, the theme of forgiveness and second chances is something we could all use sometimes.  Even when we donít deserve it.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association