Finally! A film with the courage to remind us once again that behind every dude’s redemption arc, there’s at least one woman doing the emotional heavy lifting!
Excuse me, I gotta pour myself a glass of wine before I dig into this moldy loaf of Wonderbread — I mean, my review of the new
Nicholas Sparks movie Forever My Girl. If you’re at all curious about the plot, here’s the trailer. It tells you literally EVERYTHING.
OK, I’m ready. So, if you decided not to spoil the movie for yourself, let me get you up to speed. Liam Page (Alex Roe, The 5th Wave) is a southern fried man-child from Louisiana who left his childhood sweetheart, Josie (Jessica Rothe, Happy Death Day), at the altar to go and chase his dreams of being a country music star. Fast forward eight years and he’s basically a young, hot, more popular Blake Shelton or something (I know, I know — who could POSSIBLY be hotter than Blake “Sexiest? Man? Alive?” Shelton, amirite?). But Liam is empty. Or miserable. Or drunk. I dunno, he sleeps around and sings songs about whiskey, you do the math. So when he hears that his high school buddy has died in a car accident, he decides to ditch his tour and head home without thinking a damn thing through. Like, oh I dunno, maybe the fact that he not only abandoned Josie at the altar on their wedding day, but also his father (John Benjamin Hickey), his friends, and literally the entire close-knit town. He hasn’t spoken to any of them since. Meanwhile they’ve been watching him rise to the top (or whatever you call country music stardom), and politely judging him.
As well they fucking should. Because what they know, and what he’s about to find out, is that…
HE HAS A DAUGHTER.
Yup, turns out Josie discovered she was pregnant a few weeks after he no-showed their goddamn wedding. So she tried to call him, and she left him a voicemail begging him to call her back, and if you’re wondering why “she left him a voicemail” is an important enough detail to include in this synopsis then let me assure you that apparently the ENTIRE FUCKING MOVIE HINGES ON THAT VOICEMAIL. [oh god there’s not enough wine for this] Seriously, Liam has been carting around his old flip Nokia since high school, because he listens to that voicemail every day. He just never had the courage to dial her back and find out what was so important that the love of his life would call him and beg after he abandoned her.
It’s at this point that I should mention the fact that Forever My Girl is based on a novel of the same name, which is the start of The Beaumont Series by Heidi McLaughlin — and in the book, Josie has a son instead of a daughter. That fact mostly doesn’t matter, except that it gives the film the excuse to cast the absolutely delightful Abby Ryder Fortson (Cassie from Ant-Man) as Josie’s daughter Billy. And we should all be happy they did, because that little girl single-handedly provides any ounce of charm that the film can claim to its credit. Perhaps if this were a better film, her brand of precociousness would be cloying. But in this flick? She’s basically baby Glenn Close.
The only downside to the fact that Liam finds himself winning over a daughter rather than a son is that now there are TWO women who have to save him from himself. Two women who learn to trust him, and who have to forgive him over and over for his mistakes. Who have to take him back when he runs away a second goddamn time. If it had been a son, it might not have been quite so glaring.
But who am I kidding — it still wouldn’t have worked no matter who the child was. This is a movie that leans on montages to express emotional growth, and expects us to root for the redemption of a man that literally does nothing more than show up. That Josie opens herself to him a second time is a fucking miracle. That she lets him in a THIRD TIME, after he goes rogue and heads back out on tour again, is simply staggering. And why does she forgive him once again?
BECAUSE HE HELD ONTO THAT FUCKING VOICEMAIL.
It’s almost cynical the way this movie knows you know what to expect from it, so it lets you do all the work of suspending your disbelief while almost actively making it impossible to. It dares you to question whether these two characters should really end up together, because based on the evidence presented THEY ABSOLUTELY SHOULD NOT. But I mean, if you’re in the mood for a schmaltzy, sunset-tinged romance with zero stakes or surprises, something to watch when you’re battling the superflu and all fucked up on NyQuil and won’t be able to pay enough attention to care that at certain angles it looks like Liam has a Bert-style unibrow, then by all means — let me heartily recommend Forever My Girl for your viewing pleasure.