The Lucky One, critics praised it as “Dear John meets The Vow.” Having now seen all three, it is easy to draw comparisons with snapshot moments from both of those encompassed in this film but overall, The Vow is a beautiful, heartbreaking love story on its own time, told in its own charming way. For once, marriage is demonstrated as something to cherish not bash.
Life is full of moments. Moments of joy, moments of sadness – moments of impact… but what if in the blink of an eye, all those moments were erased? Until he met her for the first time, Leo Collins (Channing Tatum) didn’t know what he was missing from life. Carefree and going through the day-to-day routines of a struggling musician, Leo wasn’t one who even thought much beyond tomorrow – nor did he think it possible to achieve owning his own studio, but all of that was before he clapped eyes on the woman who would become his future wife. Paige (Rachel McAdams) is a free-spirited artistic soul – and she is swept off her feet by Leo. His pick-up line may not have been original but she adores the man. It is love at first sight for the pair who move in together and marry in an impromptu ceremony soon after. Paige’s family is wealthy but their hypocrisy and lies that drove her away – they have been estranged for five years. Life is the perfect fairy-tale – and Paige and Leo are living it to the fullest. Life soon has different ideas when one snowy Chicago night, their small car is crushed by a snow truck…
The accident sends them both to the hospital where Leo escapes with only minor injuries but Paige was sent through the windshield and is left with injuries that she may never recover from… When she finally awakens, she has no recollection of her more recent life… of who she had become… of Leo. Some of her last memories include wearing another man’s ring, and still being close to her parents (Sam Neil, Jessica Lange). Desperate and still in love with the woman who doesn’t know him, Leo’s world is shattered but he isn’t about to give up on his wife – on them.
How refreshing is it to come across a movie in which marriage is uplifted, and not degraded – at least from one spouse’s perspective. Some may argue that ultimately where the couple ends up proves that their vows meant nothing but I must respectfully disagree… but then, I am getting ahead of myself in this review, so let’s start again. Releasing on Valentine’s Day of this year, The Vow put up some impressive numbers on opening week, making a good name for its genre, and really, it is not hard to see why. The story itself is a beautiful one while the acting sometimes comes across a bit stilted, there is something hard to ignore in the pull of emotions and truth in its storytelling. Inspired by a real couple whose way back to each other was made possible through their relationship with Christ, naturally, this Hollywood film does not rely on Christianity to tell its story but that doesn’t make its impact less poignant.
Much as I like Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams, unfortunately I didn’t always think they were “good” together. Still, there are a lot of cute moments between them (like their second “first” date and the ending). I had to look at the characters they portray with perspective because Paige no longer knew Leo - a position I think we do need to "understand." For much of the film, he was merely a stranger to her, and so, it would have felt misplaced had she been starry-eyed. Leo, on the other hand is head over heels in love with his wife the entire time and Tatum expresses that well. He has a reputation of playing an all-American, “aw, shucks” kind of guy and he pulls that stunt again with this role, a persona I don’t mind because his regret at the realization that his new wife cannot remember their life together “feels” very genuine; there are about two key moments in which the audience gets an illustration of his pent-up emotions. I loved Leo’s steadfast attitude toward his wife. Where some may be shouting at the television screen for him to walk away and start again, I empathized with his plight – despite her pushing him away at every single turn, Leo was still deeply in love with his wife; a love that could not be turned off with a button. Some viewers may see his eventual choice as not selfless but one he was bullied into. I am of the former belief – I saw his decision as further affirmation that he only wanted what was best for Paige (try as he might, he couldn’t force his wife to love him again) while she comes to realize that love doesn’t have to entail an entire past but can be a choice.
The settings are all pretty (it takes place in Chicago). Featured are a lot of night shots with the sky-scrapers all lit up and snowfall gently falling from the sky. The script is sappy in places and abnormally strong in others. It was nice to see Paige reconcile with her family and even once she remembers why she left in the first place, she is strong enough to forgive and want a fresh start. If you know the story on which this is based, it is important to realize that while many things are altered the end result is the same. It can be an ending that will bother some romantics but won’t others. To me, the film demonstrates the power of love, in many forms but in closing what the conclusion says to me is Leo and Paige will embark on creating amazing new adventures, building memories that will mean something to them again – they decide to move on with a new future: For both of them, not remain stuck in the past. They choose to honor a vow – unconventional or not.
- The Vow (Ella's review)