Nicholas Sparks cornered the market on a subgenre that he essentially invented. But it overwhelmingly appeals to women, so it’s about time female creators have a place behind the camera for these stories. Writer/director Bethany Ashton Wolf has adapted Heidi McLaughlin’s novel in “Forever My Girl,” a tale of love lost and found.
Homegrown country pop star Liam Page (Alex Roe) ditches his high school sweetheart Josie (Jessica Rothe) at the altar during a frenzy surrounding his first hit single. Eight years later, he is an instantly recognizable, overly entitled enfant terrible pursued by fans and photographers.
Sad news from his hometown of Saint Augustine, La., sends Liam back home, much to the chagrin of his long-suffering manager Sam (Peter Cambor) and high-powered Hollywood publicist Doris (Gillian Vigman). No one at home seems pleased to see him, either. Not his dad, Pastor Brian (John Benjamin Hickey), and definitely not his ex, who slugs him. The only one who seems remotely interested is — drumroll — his 7-year-old daughter, Billy (Abby Ryder Fortson), whose existence comes as a surprise to Liam.
Billy is the catalyst for Liam and Josie to reunite, and for Liam to leave his bad-boy ways behind. But she never feels like a real character. She’s simply a device to help Liam to find himself.
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Rothe and Roe have chemistry, and she makes the most of her scorned Southern belle role. “Forever My Girl” is a showcase for the British hunk Roe, with piercing blue eyes. His Liam is tortured, bratty and broken, and because he seeks redemption, he is redeemable in the world of the story.
“Forever My Girl” is resolved a bit too easily, but that works for the world of the film, which is a bucolic “Steel Magnolias”-inspired fantasyland. An uncomplicated romantic tale of a man trying to do right by the women might be pure fantasy. But for an audience, seeking fluffy, escapist, country music-tinged romance, it’ll hit a sweet spot.
‘Forever My Girl’
Rated PG for thematic elements including drinking, and for language. 1:44. AMC Classics, Richmond.