It feels like I’ve been reviewing a lot of rom-coms and “chick flicks” recently… must be about four months after Valentine’s Day, and time for all the February box-office films to make it to Blu-ray! After being thoroughly disappointed by New Year’s Eve, I trudged into what I thought was extremely sappy territory with The Vow. At first I thought it would be just another Nicholas Sparks-based movie, based mainly on the title, and the fact that it was starring Channing Tatum (Dear John) and Rachel McAdams (The Notebook).
Fortunately for me, I was completely wrong. The Vow is instead (loosely) based on the true story of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, a Christian couple who were married just ten weeks before a car crash left Krickitt with amnesia where she couldn’t remember the last eighteen months of her life, including not knowing who her husband was at all. Through their faith in God and vows to each other on their wedding day, the two attempt to overcome the tragedy and reestablish their life together.
It appears that the moviemakers have taken quite a few liberties with the story. McAdams and Tatum play Paige and Leo, the fictional versions of the real-life couple, who have been married four years, and Paige’s brain injury leaves her with no memory of the last five years. Before the accident, she is an artist who dropped out of law school and hasn’t talked to her family in years, but after the trauma, finds her mindset five years prior, when she was still in school, engaged to Jeremy (Scott Speedman) and still close with her family.
Since the Blu-ray version I received comes with a copy of the book, my wife had already plowed through the first half of the book, and was continually yelling at the TV, “That’s not how the story goes!!” I, on the other hand, have not yet begun the book, so am unjaded in that respect, and will be reviewing the movie from a non-biased point of view. While I’m disappointed that there is absolutely zero reference to the real couple’s strong Christian faith in the film, I am very excited to read the book now, after seeing the movie, and enjoying the fact that the real story is even more inspiring.
What is so gripping about the film is that, although much of the true story has been altered, the heart of the message is the same and the whole thing feels very realistic in its portrayal of overcoming the odds because of a promise. It’s not overly sappy, but instead McAdams and Tatum convey believable emotions and real frustration with their situation as they try to put back the pieces.
Tatum’s character reflects, “Moments of impact define who we are. What if one day you could no longer remember any of them?” That idea really struck a chord with me, and helped me to navigate through some of the more cheesy scenes as I was captivated with the thought of being stuck in my mindset from five years ago. I wouldn’t know my wife either, and wonder about which aspects of my own life I would be disappointed or surprised by. Paige seems more upset by her life decisions, and can’t connect with why she wouldn’t have a relationship with her parents anymore, what would make her drop out of law school to become an artist, and why she would dump her fiancee.
The doctors try to get her to go through her normal routine, but her standard way of doing things all seems brand new to her, and she finds herself connecting more with her old life, a self that hasn’t grown or matured at all, and people from her past begin to see her just as she used to be. Leo, on the other hand, sees his wife in a completely new light, and sees who she used to be rather than who she was with him, making him question his vow to her to love her “fiercely, in all her forms, now and forever.” Even if it means making her fall in love with him all over again, from the first date onward, Leo’s selfless love that wants the best for Paige at any cost is a true inspiration.
The bonus features include the mandatory commentary, deleted scenes, and gag reel, but also three featurettes further exploring the film and its true-to-life story. “Profiles of Love” focuses on Paige and Leo’s characters, and an in-depth look at their relationship, while “Trying to Remember” looks at amnesia and the reality of what that would be like in that situation. The third, “‘Til Death Do They Part,” goes deep into the love story and making it relatable, and unique. Instead of the typical romantic drama, where every story has already been told, this one is different and new because it’s based in truth, and starts with the couple already in love, and trying to “find a way back.”