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The Vow
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2 Stars - Fair
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Mpaa Rating
PG-13 (for an accident scene, sexual content, partial nudity and some language)
Genre
Directed By
Michael Sucsy
Run Time
1 hour 44 minutes
Cast
Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Jessica Lange, Sam Neill
Theatre Release
February 10, 2012 by Screen Gems

The good news, from a Christian perspective, is that The Vow is a romance focusing on a couple that is actually married. After enduring a recent slate of movies celebrating the hook-up culture (No Strings Attached, Friends With Benefits, Love and Other Drugs), it's nice to have a romantic film that shares the notion that it is natural for people who love each other to want to make a formal and binding commitment.

But despite its intriguing premise—an accident leaves the wife with severe memory loss, and her husband remains faithful to his vows—the film's plotting and conflicts are so routine that one gets very little examination of that premise. What could have been a fascinating character study about the relationship of the self/soul (the core of one's being) to one's past, one's body, or one's words instead plays out as a series of sitcom-style misunderstandings and serial conflicts that do little other than pass the time until the characters are ready to make meaningful decisions rather than postponing them until their situation changes.

Channing Tatum as Leo

Channing Tatum as Leo

Leo (Channing Tatum) and Paige (Rachel McAdams) are a loving couple whose special bond is established quickly through voice-over narration and a quirky but sincere wedding scene where they exchange quixotic vows. She promises to "abide" in his heart. He promises to love her "fiercely." Leo's small business running a music recording studio is growing, and Paige is getting important commissions as an up-and-coming sculptor. When Paige is injured in a car accident, however, she loses her memory, including any recall of her marriage or even of Leo's existence. When Paige's parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) descend upon the hospital, offering to pay bills and take care of their previously estranged daughter, Leo must balance what he thinks is best for Paige based on his past knowledge of her with what Paige is now saying she wants for herself.

Rachel McAdams as Paige

Rachel McAdams as Paige

The biggest script misfire is probably focusing on Leo instead of Paige. It is Paige's situation which is unique and raises interesting questions. In a scene where Paige watches herself making wedding vows on videotape, we get a glimpse of a genuinely engaging dilemma—can a person hold herself to a vow she doesn't even remember making to a person she no longer recalls falling in love with? Leo's problems are more mechanical and familiar—how does one make a stranger fall in love? It doesn't help, either, that through most of the film Leo seems to ignore Paige's doctor, who stresses that Paige is dealing with a brain injury and not (necessarily) a psychological or emotional blackout. A scene where Leo walks around the apartment nude the morning after Paige returns from the hospital is explained by his falling into old habits when appearances return to normal, but would anyone in this situation really be that insensitive? In Paige's studio, Leo cranks up the music she used to play loud, gets frustrated when she asks him to turn it off, and expresses frustration that his efforts are not appreciated. The doctors warned him that mood swings would be a likely effect of Paige's brain injury, but nowhere does Leo (or the film) seem to acknowledge that Paige is an injured person who needs to heal rather than a healthy person who has lost her memory.

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