Looking for a sappy romance that’s sure to induce a few tears (or at least make you feel like you want to cry)? If you are, The Vow is right up your alley. The film, which topped the box office in its opening week, details a couple’s trying romance. Paige (the ever-beautiful Rachel McAdams) and Leo (the charming Channing Tatum) fall in love at first sight. They get married and lead a happy (and mildly countercultural) life in a one bedroom flat. Paige makes her living as a sculptor while Leo has just opened a somewhat shabby recording studio. All is well until Paige, overcome by a sudden wave of romantic feeling, decides to unfasten her seatbelt on a snowy night to have sex with her husband. Cue a giant pickup truck on slippery ice and the rest is history.
Leo awakes in the hospital to find his beloved wife in a medically-induced coma with possible signs of brain damage. When she awakens, it quickly becomes apparent that her memories of the past five years have been erased. Paige does not remember marrying Leo (or anything about Leo, for that matter) and she is clueless as to why she would even fall in love with him in the first place. As the film progresses, the Paige before Leo emerges. She was a buttoned-up law student and devoted daughter of conservative socialite parents from whom she cannot remember becoming estrange. Paige still believes she is engaged to her former beau Jeremy and cannot understand why she would have ever dumped him for a guy like her Leo. Leo, on the other hand, is ceaselessly patient with his amnesia-stricken wife who has made it perfectly clear that she is now married to him against her will.
You can probably guess what happens next: Leo does everything in his power to recreate the love that he and his beloved wife had shared before the accident. Even when things look bad, Leo never gives up on his relationship with Paige.
The movie is a typical cutesy romance. But it’s also unendingly frustrating. Fresh off of HBO’s critically acclaimed Grey Gardens telepic, director Michael Sucsy adjusts well to a genre dominated by Nicholas Sparks’ adaptations. The casting of McAdams, star of The Notebook, seems to be a bit more than a coincidence. Although The Vow has often been compared to The Notebook, do not anticipate a film of that caliber or you are sure to leave the theater disappointed. While The Vow starts off strong, it fails to compensate for a flabby middle and incomplete ending.
The film is based, however loosely, on the real-life story of Kim and Krickett Carpenter. The audience is informed of this when the film opens and this gives the film a legitimate excuse for using what would otherwise be considered an abuse of Hollywood’s favorite lazy-screenwriting tool: dramatically expedient amnesia. However, it also forces the viewer to think about how heart wrenching and difficult amnesia can really be.
After placing yourself in the main character’s shoes, it becomes quite clear that The Vow just barely scrapes the surface. Its embodiment of true human pain feels a bit too painless. How would Leo really react if his wife awoke from a coma with no recollection of marrying him? Wouldn’t Leo want to find a way of making her memories come back? His feeble attempts at trying to “tickle-torture” her into remembering the past five years would seem more foolish than romantic in the real world. Similarly, wouldn’t Paige be terrified if she awoke to find a stranger at her bedside who claimed to be her husband of four years?
The Vow just feels a bit too comfortable. It is clear that the writers did not realise the promise of the original story. More melodrama and deeper characters would have given this lightweight movie the substance it badly needed. Instead, The Vow is a mere knockoff of a Nicholas Sparks film adaptation, which suggests that Hollywood is more interested in preying on the surface emotions of the everyday moviegoer than dealing in reality — and infinitely more interested in selling out on Valentine’s Day.
Do not get me wrong; The Vow is a sweet date-night movie. But that’s all it is.