JANUARY 19, 2018 -- Contrary to what I initially thought, this is NOT a Nicholas Sparks story although I would argue that writer Bethany Ashton Wolf was heavily influenced by the prolific romance novelist. The fact that it's coming out a couple of weeks before Valentines Day pretty much seals the link! (Sparks films "Message In A Bottle", "A Walk to Remember", "Dear John", "Safe Haven", and "The Choice" all were release for Valentine's Day".)


However, there is no Sparks film slated for release this year so for those fans pining for that kind of story - and not interested in the third installment of the 50 Shade franchise -- "Fifty Shades Freed" -- you're in luck.


Wolf's first crack at a wide release feature length film won't disappoint romance fans though it is extremely predictable. It has all the ingredients of a typical Sparks story with a setting in a small southern town; this time in Louisiana. (Sparks novels are traditionally filmed in the Carolina's.)

She cast Brit Alex Roe as country music singer Liam Page and scream queen Jessica Roth ("Happy Death Day") as Josie. The film opens with the two of them about to wed in a lavish wedding. The problem is Liam leaves Josie standing at th alter while he ran off to pursue fame and fortune with his first big hit. Josie was devastated along with most of the folk in their small town.


The story picks up eight years later with Liam performing in New Orleans when he hears the news that one of his oldest friends died in his hometown. He elects to go back though he pines for the love he left behind. When he gets back, he is given a cold shoulder by everyone, including his dad (John Benjamin Hickey). He also learns he has a daughter, Billy (Abby Ryder Fortson).


The rest is standard fair with several opportunities for viewers to quietly replace the dialogue with funnier, more realistic lines. But you already know the outcome though my tragic alternative ending would have improved it immensely.


Surprisingly, it is Fortson who brings the humor as a precocious seven-year old who is far more mature than her years. The rest of the characters are cardboard cutouts of typical romance dramas.


Roe does an excellent job of masking his heavy British accent and for Rothe, it is actually a step backward from her amusing role in "Happy Death Day".


"Forever My Girl" is as good as it's going to get for romance movie fans who aren't old enough to get in to see "Fifty Shades Freed" in February. But the timid storyline is perfect for its "PG" rating.   -- GRADE C+ --   GEOFF BURTON