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FOREVER MY GIRL – 2018



“Only the gentle are ever really strong.”
~ James Dean ~


I had posted the trailer of Forever My Girl on my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook long before anyone else had posted anything about it because I had read the book by Heidi McLaughlin and I was awaiting the big screen version with utmost impatience simply because I was craving to see if the book was better or the movie.

I watched it last night, and I must add, with much emphasis, that the movie moved me deeply. In a time where everybody seems to take love for granted and seldom works on it like a sculptor works most lovingly on his marble by giving it the shape and form he so desires, Forever My Girl had several things going for it: innate heartache, binds and bonds of family and friends, feelings and emotions most handsomely handled and expressed, a fine representation of how some relationships stand the test of time and some don’t – it even had god and the church, and despite the critics seeming to have made little of it, I was enormously pleased that it was rather treasured by the public with much enthusiasm, and why not? It contained no violence, no lovemaking, or even profanity for that matter, something we see most meaninglessly woven into the tapestry of a film merely to tempt and titillate the audiences. The movie made you feel that you don’t need to be bohemian to be acceptably fashionable. That there is great meaning in simplicity, and sophisticated simplicity is something that is part of our cultural DNA, and at the end of the day manners, respect and love score over everything else. Adored how nobody is scheming and insulting anybody, and how, with such refined balance, each one is actually responsible for each other’s keeping.

Cinema, the arts, literature or anything to do with humanities does have a rather calming effect on mankind. Watching a violent film, leaves behind a distasteful residue in us. I was reading an article by Jacques Attali called Can Art Do Anything Against Violence? In that he states, and I quote – art softens proprieties. In principle, art represents civilization, beauty, serenity and benevolence. Moreover, in principle, nothing is more soothing than frequenting masterpieces of art. He explains further that societies that reject art are particularly violent. I have always supported this view that if we surround ourselves with negativity or viciousness, it percolates into our system, reaching soon a point of no return, and it is at such times that we need to use mediums like literature, art and film to tell folks whelmed in such throes that life is not something to be spent nurturing the unsavoury. That if you see and surround yourself with the good, there is every chance that the good would manifest itself in your heart and soul and make you a person who will be an epitome of buoyancy. Perhaps I make it sound as easy as picking up a glass of water and gulping it down one’s throat, and for many, I daresay, it is indeed easy to go with the flow, however, those who thrive on independence of thought and above all possess a strong character, would not find themselves beguiled by the trends of the times. They would reject that which they feel is detrimental to their inner and outward growth. As the events unfolded on the screen, it was like watching a charming wedge from the golden age of cinema. I found myself so very absorbed in every scene merely because it brought to itself a novelty one was not accustomed to watching these days. It had such a lovely touch of affection between Liam and Joise, and the very representation of that type of pure love has been absent for a long time, not only on the screen, but also in the lives of people as well. And that is when I wondered why other filmmakers were not making more movies like these when they knew what effect the cinema has on people? That is when I discerned that this was not the problem of the filmmakers per se, but an enigma of the most mammoth kind with the current generation itself – a generation that thrived on instant gratification, and who’s attention span was colossally distrait, for when they saw something that lacked unreal twists and turns in storytelling, a screenplay that grew organically with the story, they were seldom able to differentiate a pebble from a diamond.


I LEARNT / LIKED

That people seldom change until something life changing comes along to change them. Liam has everything, and yet what he yearns for is some ‘real’ love from the ‘real’ people he craves it from.

That children can be smarter than we think they are. In fact they are far too smart for their age when we were their age. It is like they come fitted with an innate antenna in them that works beyond our capacity to understand their mechanics.

That people tend to hide a lot, not to escape their pain, but because they don’t know how to articulate what they are hiding. This is where every Liam needs a Josie. And when I say that, I do not mean only in form of the opposite sex, the aim is that every Liam in us needs someone like Josie to believe in them; to understand that we need to be there for those whom we love most unconditionally when we know that our souls have connected. This is where we have to go back to our life’s drawing boards and rub the parts away where we are each raised with the belief that nobody is indispensable. Such teachings are nothing but a bunch of garbage as there is absolutely no substitute for those who matter to us. Also, how the scar of his childhood would have left Liam so gravely damaged that in being unable to process the pain, he finds himself abandoning what requires mending. This is where we have to understand that people deal with grief in ways that we may not understand. We have to be patient and let the hurt heal. We have to be the anchor and help one another get through the distress regardless of the hardships we face.

How not everything can be made right by money, just as gifts mean nothing in the lives of those who mean the world to us.

How the old duct-taped phone that Liam holds closest to his heart indicates that in life we may become larger than life for the world and have everything we would ever want, but it is these little things that matter: things that we attach importance to by virtue of them being woven into the valves of our heart and soul.

Liam rushing barefoot to the phone store illustrates most marvellously how, when we are in our plainest elements, we care less for anything that the world cares for in us. I loved how when he offers ten thousand dollars to anybody who can fix his phone, the manager of the store offers to fix it for him on the house. This is where I think that the values that we see fading at an alarming rate today are awfully imperative to keeping and preserving the nature of helping our fellow human beings without any strings attached. I loved how Josie tells Liam that there would be nothing between them, and exactly an instant after he hears her say that, Liam asks Josie if he can pick her up from work.

How Liam, who hasn’t been able to produce any riveting music, or written any heart-touching songs because his life appears clouded by the distractions of city life, the drugs, and the flesh, is able to write with much profoundness in an environment that he finds actual comfort in. Many people who crave for celebrity do not realise that celebrity is intoxicating, and it can also consume you in ways that you can rarely fathom, and by the time you realise you want to retract your steps, your feet would have been far dunked in dirt, unless of course providence is benevolent enough and gives you a second chance.


DID NOT LIKE

1/ The parallel drawn on Nicholas Spark’s work to market this movie was lame. Agreed he is a novelist who has made great success by tapping on the pulse of the passions of love and relationships, but his work is dreadfully predictable. If not anything it is weighed down with overdoses of saccharine. The Forever My Girl production house did not have to piggyback on someone else when their product was strong enough on its own.

2/ Here are some (inexcusable) excerpts from the book:

On page 87
“No.” I shake my head to emphasis my point.
It should have been: I shake my head to emphasise my point?

On page 89
I couldn’t really say no since he used buy our beer for us.
Where is the ‘to’ before buy?

Like all else, it seems editing too has taken a nosedive. It is appalling that publishing houses do not take their reputation seriously. Whom are they catering to with such mistakes? Shouldn’t the publishing firms engage experienced editors? How did the writer give her nod to the final draft?


CREW

One must tip one’s hat for the director Bethany Ashton Wolf. She is incredibly in control of her project. Glad she decided on the novel, and then chiselled it into the magnificent screenplay with the writer of the novel, Heidi McLaughlin. The book and the film are strikingly dissimilar. I found the film far more powerful than the book. The book in portions was unpolished and insensitive. It had many trivial characters, was overloaded with the unnecessary usage of profanity, and was jarringly predictable. The movie on the other hand was charming and reflected meaning. It was not merely cinema that was callous. It was something one can watch with school kids to grandparents – and each age group will cherish most deeply the beauty of relationships depicted in it as long as they live.

Right from the etiquettes to the minute details of human nature that Bethany Ashton Wolf has portrayed in her movie makes her one of my favourite directors. I adored how she avoids playing to the gallery who worships effect, and effect, unfortunately, is rather short-lived, because what stays on even when we are long gone is culture and polish, and she is a master raconteur of that polite genre.

Alex Roe is a fine choice for Liam Page not only for his chiselled jawline, lanky structure, expressive eyes, but more so because he enhances his American twang with the refined touch of British finesse. Jessica Rothe as Josie is my favourite. She has a winning smile, strong legs, and a voice to drool over. Convincing and vulnerable, she is as perfect as Josie could get for the big screen. John Benjamin Hickey as Pastor Brian was another role enacted with immense panache by John. He has an alluring screen presence and it is a delight to watch him play his role with utter subtlety. Abby Ryder Fortson as Billy is the niftiest kid around. She essays her role to the perfect T – bold, confident, observant and how a kid actually ought to be – genteel, genuine, and yet having a free soul of her own. Peter Cambor as Sam, Liam’s manager is more like his sounding board. He is like what a good friend is – looking out for you and giving you a smack on the arse when you most need it. Gillian Vigman as Doris, Liam’s publicist enacts her little screen time with verve and ardour. Tyler Riggs as Jake, Josie’s brother is one of the smartest men in the movie. He has an easy-going charm to him not without the unmistakable stamp of defined masculinity that is a hallmark of country life.

The compositions of Brett Boyett sink into your soul. Alex Roe’s vocals are a treat for the melody-crazy music buffs. Duane Manwiller has handled the camera with deftness.


ON A BROADER PERSPECTIVE

When you turn the pages of the newspaper, or scroll across digital screens, you discern the reasons that are common to the ruining of relationships are either downright childish or not worthy of a thought. At such times you wonder whatever can be done to amend the straying attitudes. One of them is surely to do with COMMUNICATION PROBLEMS. You will be alarmed to learn that sexual infidelity is not really the problem causer in most couples, but the lack of communication is. Not thinking he is good enough for Josie, Liam takes a decision based on his own summation without asking her how she feels about him, and when his intention is to do her good, he ends up hurting everybody in the bargain. This behaviour is directly related to an evolutionary problem – men find it difficult to express their emotions since they have been conditioned to be manly, and to be manly is not to admit to your vulnerabilities or come into contact with your innermost feelings. They learn to bottle up their emotions and sink along with the ship even if there were to be a lighthouse in the distance.

LACK OF INTIMACY: When I use the word ‘intimacy’ I am not pointing in the direction of sexual pleasure. Sex is vital in a relationship, but sex is not the core of everything in life. Men need sexual receptivity to feel romantic, and women need romance to be sexually receptive. That has been most beautifully represented in the movie. Liam has his fair share of women as a celebrity, while Josie finds herself so intertwined with Laim and his soul even in his absence that she cannot find someone to make love with for the sake of fulfilling her desires. People forget that intimacy is not merely genital-to-genital contact, but intimacy can be found in hugs, kisses, the need to be touched, fondled, and to feel close to their partners. Relationships can head towards a dead end if we stop paying attention to intimacy.

UNMET EXPECTATIONS: Sometimes small things can create the widest rifts. Be watchful of what triggers a negative reaction in your partner. Liam’s stature renders him to take life easy as he is given everything on a platter. However, when he returns home his father treats him like he is just anybody else around home. He has to wash the dishes and ride the bicycle. I reckon men should be sent to the countryside in order to learn to do their own work, that way a lot of friction would, and could, be avoided between a couple.

I know I could go on and on, but I reckon I shall stop here with a footnote that much as cinematic experiences may drum into our hearts and minds that life is so and so, and we have to live it with such and such philosophies, fact is that life is rarely dramatic – it is a steady rolling forward of events that make us who we are, and it is the people who are around us who bring such events to light, and this is one striking experience watching Forever My Girl left me with. I cannot but think of Susan Sontag here who ruminated in her diary, “Nothing is mysterious, no human relation. Except love.” Or even Rainer Maria Rilke who said, “To love is good, too: love being difficult. For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.”

PS: If the film were to be made in my side of the world, I envision Ali Zafar essaying Laim and Aditi Rao Hydari as Josie. 



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