A film review by Craig J. Koban May 7, 2018


2018, PG-13, 104 mins.


Alex Roe as Liam Page  /  Jessica Rothe as Josie  /  John Benjamin Hickey as Pastor Brian  /  Abby Ryder Fortson as Billy  /  Tyler Riggs as Jake  /  Peter Cambor as Sam  /  Gillian Vigman as Doris  /  Morgan Alexandria as Kiera

Written and directed by Bethany Ashton Wolf





FOREVER MY GIRL is a walking cliché factory that's a nearly unendurable watch checking bore simply by how utterly predictable the narrative becomes with each waking moment.  

Based on the Heidi McLaughlin novel, the film seems like it's cherry picking the worst elements of the most forgettable Nicholas Sparks film adaptations and gathering them together to make something so dramatically bland and lifeless that I had to constantly remind myself during my screening that I had to care about what was going on.  I have no problem with the romance genre, especially when they're entries are done right, but FOREVER MY GIRL leaves no formulaic stone left unturned, resulting in it barely achieving the moniker of a schmaltzy and manipulative made for TV Hallmark movie of the week.  

That's not to say that this film has zero redeeming qualities.  It stars the extremely appealing Jessica Rothe, who gave, for my money, a thanklessly solid performance in last year's thanklessly good GROUNDHOG DAY knock-off HAPPY DEATH DAY.  She carried that horror-thriller quite admirably on her shoulders, but even her fresh faced demeanor and ample on screen charisma can save this weepy stinker, mostly because FOREVER MY GIRL mournfully saddles her with an archaic movie troupe character of the emotionally vulnerable single mother that's waiting to be swept off of her feet and rescued by a man that can truly take care of her.   Have we pathetically reached a stage in contemporary cinema when stale and overused gender roles like this are still handed down to actresses in romance dramas?  Any woman that sees this film should cry foul and demand a refund.  Rothe's character stands around throughout much of this film like a prize waiting to be dominated and won by a plucky male suitor, which does Rothe's skills as an actress a disservice. 



Granted, her character starts off the film being dumped on her wedding day...so there's that.  As the film opens in small town Louisiana we meet bride-to-be Josie (Rothe) as she's about to be wed to her fiancé, Liam (Alex Roe), an up and coming country music star poised for superstardom.  Unfortunately for Josie, Liam fails to show up to the wedding without any reason given, leaving Josie a predictable emotional mess.  The film then flash forwards eight years, during which time Liam has become a massive success as a touring singer and one of the biggest country acts in America, but he's faced with dealing with his past back home when he learns that one of his old pals (and the one that was to be his best man at his wedding) has been killed in a car accident, which means that Liam has to deal with returning home for the funeral.  Josie does the right thing when they cross paths...by punching him right in the gut. 

After that rude awakening, Liam decides to lay low and stay with his father, who also happens to be the town pastor (John Benjamin Hickey) and has grown increasingly upset that his son has forgotten his roots as he climbed the latter of billboard success and achieved wealth and fame.  Of course, Liam decides to make a go of it and visits a local flower shop that - wouldn't ya know it? - Josie also owns and operates.  Very soon, he learns that his ex-fiancé had a baby that is now seven years old, Billy (Abby Ryder Fortson), which unavoidably means that he is the father, leaving him even more guilt ridden that he abandoned Josie all those years ago (she found out about her pregnancy two weeks after he rudely bailed).  Now, Josie did try to contact Liam, but he never returned her call, but because this film needs to humanize this loser, he still carries around the old school flip phone that contains her original message on it, which he listens to daily.  It doesn't take a fortune teller to predict that Liam yearns to spend time with his daughter and that she takes a liking to him, which leads to Josie taking a newfound liking to Liam...and so on and so on. 

The patent obviousness of FOREVER MY GIRL is positively head spinning at times.  If you guessed - without seeing this film and only by my basic plot description - that the daughter and father would find a manner to come together through a mutual shared love of music then - BINGO! - you guessed correctly.  You would have also guessed correctly if you believed that the once cold shouldered Josie would eventually lower her defensive guards against Liam because - gosh darn it - he sure seems like a natural father with the daughter he never knew he had.  Plus, they're so damn cute together making music.  Now, this wouldn't be a Nicholas Sparksian clone if ample barriers didn't rear their ugly heads to serve as stumbling blocks for Josie and Liam finally rekindling their love, and well before the film ended and the  final credits started rolling it was easy to deduce what trajectory this plot was headed.  Very few romance films are on such pitiful levels of autopilot as much as FOREVER MY GIRL.   

Genre efforts like this can be saved by the amiability of the lead performers and by the sizzling chemistry they share, but FOREVER MY GIRL also fumbles the ball in this respect.  Roe is so vanilla bland in what should have been a devilishly charming rogue character that you have to wonder what millions of country music fans - and Josie - ever saw in this guy, outside of his handsome outward facade.  This dude is also not really worthy of the redemptive arc that this film tries to methodically cram down our collective throats, seeing as his loathsome act of leaving his bride at the alter is fairly unforgivable.  Rothe herself is perhaps the only element that kept me modestly invested here, but the Denver born actress seems totally disinterested in her role and appearing in the film, which consequently registers in the genuine lack of heat that she shares with her co-star.  You also know a film is in serious trouble when it struggles to find ways to brings its pair of doomed lovers back together.  The manner that the plot uses - as hilarious as this sounds - Liam's complete inability to perform a Heimlich Maneuver to another choking character as a means to help propel the narrative forward to a series of misunderstandings, and then reconciliation is beyond desperate and stupefying. 

There are virtually no hidden layers of unpredictable depth to the characters and the dime-a-dozen story they populate all throughout FOREVER MY GIRL.  This movie is like a cheesy Valentine's Day card that you pick up and instantly foresee the sappy and sugar coated inspirational love message buried within it before you open it.  There's nothing inherently offensive about a movie with noble minded messages of family values, learning to accept and move on from past mistakes, and finding happiness in unexpected places, but FOREVER MY GIRL portrays these themes with the subtlety of a sucker punch to the throat.  I will say this in the film's defense: Rothe and Roe are really, really good looking people.  They're really easy on the eyes.  The film they're in, though, really gave me a migraine for all the incredulous and bored out of my kind eye rolling I did while watching it. 

  H O M E