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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Forever My Girl is a romantic drama about a hugely famous country singer named Liam (Alex Roe) who returns to his hometown after eight years and tries to re-woo Josie (Jessica Rothe), the high school sweetheart he left at the altar. Based on the novel by Heidi McLaughlin, the movie is more faith-based than the book and, unlike its source material, doesn't have any overt love scenes. There is one scene where Liam wakes up after an implied one-night stand to find a young woman wearing nothing but his concert T-shirt, but what happened between them is never shown. Plus, characters kiss, and Billy is clear evidence that Liam and Josie's teen relationship was a sexually active one. Language includes words like "crap," "hell," "freaking" and "idiot," and Liam drinks quite a bit (sometimes to the verge of passing out), and there are vague references to former drug use. Characters' arguments could bother sensitive kids, and an upsetting flashback shows a young boy traumatized by watching medical personnel work on his very ill mother in the hospital. But the movie offers many positive messages, particularly about redemption, humility, second chances, and unconditional love.
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What's the story?
FOREVER MY GIRL starts off on the fateful day that 19-year-old Liam Page (Alex Roe) leaves his fiancée/high school sweetheart, Josie (Jessica Rothe), at the altar. Eight years later, Liam is a hard-drinking, commitment-phobic country music superstar who's never returned to his small Louisiana hometown, St. Augustine. Then, when he's in New Orleans for a gig, the local news alerts Liam to the tragic fact that his best friend from high school, now a local politician, has died in a car accident. Liam feels compelled to go back home, where he bumps into his father (John Benjamin Hickey) -- the town preacher -- and, of course, Josie, who now has a young daughter. Abruptly ditching his concert tour, Liam decides to stick around and catch up with his dad (from whom he's been estranged). And he soon discovers that Josie's precocious 7-year-old daughter, Billy (Abby Ryder Forston), is his child. Liam works on getting to know Billy and win back Josie's heart, but Josie's protective older brother, Jake (Tyler Riggs), reminds Liam that not everyone has forgotten or forgiven his abandonment.
Is it any good?
This sweet faith-based romance -- which is even more teen-friendly than the Heidi McLaughlin novel on which it's based -- benefits from charming performances and a notable country soundtrack. Unlike many romances that follow the drama of falling in love, Forever My Girl is a story of a second chance between two people who never fully fell out of love. Liam and Josie have a lot of emotional baggage to sort out and a child to put first, but it's clear from the first time they see each other that they're bound to reunite -- wedding day abandonment and international country music careers all but forgotten. The stakes never feel that high, but it's pleasant enough to see the characters arrive at their happily ever after ... in the same way that Hallmark Christmas romances or Lifetime movies are predictable and safe but still satisfying.
An unexpected difference from the original book (which was the first in a series) is that the filmmakers have injected a healthy dose of faith-based content and themes into the story -- to the point that viewers unfamiliar with the book might assume it's Christian fiction. The original material isn't spiritual (Liam's father's isn't a pastor, the church isn't a central meeting point for the town, etc.), but the faith-based aspects actually work here. What we end up with is a romance, a father-daughter love story (even though it's pretty hard to believe that Liam never heard about Billy, even from his own dad), and a prodigal son tale. Forever My Girl is one of those rare dramas that's clean enough for older tweens and younger teens and well-made enough for romance-loving parents to enjoy. If you want sizzling and swoon-worthy, watch Outlander, but for a light, message-filled romance, this one's worth checking out.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Forever My Girl's romance storyline works with its more Christian themes. Do you think the movie, which isn't based on Christian fiction, needed the faith-based elements? Why or why not?
If you've read the book, what do you think of the changes to the story? Do they make the movie more or less appropriate for younger viewers?
- In theaters: January 19, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: April 24, 2018
- Cast: Alex Roe, Jessica Rothe, John Benjamin Hickey, Abby Ryder Fortson
- Director: Bethany Ashton Wolf
- Studio: Roadside Attractions
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Book Characters
- Character Strengths: Humility
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements including drinking, and for language
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