Sometimes sweet love stories are the best go-to form of relaxation after a busy day. The Hallmark channel produces scores of these types of films. However, once in a while there appears an emotional romance that reflects deeply on human weakness and the god-like quality of reconciliation in relationships so as to transcend the simple romance genre.
Forever My Girl stars Alex Roe as Liam Page who left his high school sweetheart Josie (Jessica Rothe) at the altar to seek out fame and fortune. Based on the book by Heidi McLaughlin and adapted by director and writer Bethany Ashton Wolf, this prodigal son tale shows Liam returning to his hometown of St. Augustine, Louisiana eight years later as a country music superstar for the funeral of his best friend from high school. His struggles with fame come from feeling completely unfulfilled and interiorly restless. He naively tries to reconnect with the people of the town with whom he burned bridges in the past, including his own father, Pastor Page (John Benjamin Hickey). When he sees Josie, she too avoids interaction.
Liam seeks to reclaim his roots and all that he dismissed in the past in order to find himself. He enters the local flower shop only to discover that Josie owns it. A precocious little girl named Billy (Abby Fortson) walks in and introduces herself to Liam who finds out that she is Josie’s daughter. Making the connection by her age, he realizes Billy is the daughter he never knew he had. At first, Forston puts on an adult-like attitude that can seem rather unrealistic, yet her character changes as she gets to know her dad. She becomes a child again and the relationship melds into tender father-daughter intimacy.
As Liam decides to stay around town for a bit longer, he becomes aware of what he was running away from and arrives at self-discovery. His mother died when he was young and he and his father never connected after that, both wallowing in their own grief. Through his transformation, Josie, “a woman who knows her own self-worth,” according to Jessica Rothe, begins to see a more mature side of Liam and not only his self-centered, superstar image. The power of forgiveness offered by his father, Josie, and the other townsfolk transforms Liam. As producers Mickey Liddell and Pete Shilaimon reflect, “Forgiveness stems from loss and hurt feelings…. The energy to hate is wasted energy… forgiveness gives freedom.”
It is through forgiveness that love blossoms, as is the case with Liam and Josie. They enter into a renewed, but more mature relationship. As Wolf says, “I think love is at the heart of everything that we do as human beings. So whatever story I’m telling I’ll always infuse love and romance into it because everything we do in life involves that universal feeling and emotion.”
Some may see this film as a glorified Hallmark story or Lifetime movie. I, however, see there is something more profound at its core and that is, sometimes God gives us second chances at finding happiness even when we mess it all up. Jesus said the same thing in the Gospels. His parable of the Prodigal Son focuses not on the sin but on the forgiveness of the sinner and the father treats him with extravagant love. Sometimes that first love is still waiting for us, hoping we come to our senses to see the beauty that was before us all along. Life often is not found in the fame and the glory but in the simple things of life, the relationships that God puts before us. This is where we find our fulfillment, our purpose and meaning of our existence. And relationships take work. They are hard. They require of us a selflessness that burns away our ego and allows the true inner beauty to come forth. This film, in its very simplicity, portrays that. And, that makes for a lovely, feel-good romance.