If you’ve ever been in a relationship, you’ve probably done things that you regret. At times, you may wish your significant other would simply forget your screw-ups, so these misdeeds couldn’t hang over your head. While a clean slate would be nice, what would you do if he or she suddenly couldn’t remember your entire experience together? That is the question Michael Sucsy’s romantic drama “The Vow” seeks to answer.
The lovers facing this very challenge are Leo and Paige (Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams), a young married couple from Chicago. Right from the start, the actors take great pains to show us how smitten these characters are, with numerous tender gestures: silly faces Paige makes at Leo, his warm breath on her cold hands, and Leo’s ridiculous Meatloaf karaoke in their car. A happy evening ride together quickly turns tragic however, as a truck rear-ends them, sending Paige flying through the windshield in unnecessary slow motion.
You’re never introduced to the truck driver, but that’s okay because what’s really important is “the moment of impact,” as Leo describes in his narration: a significant event that changes the course of your life. Much to our dismay, this particular moment places Paige in a coma.
While she sleeps, director Michael Sucsy flashes back four years prior, to Leo and Paige’s courtship. In doing so, he takes us on a whirlwind ride from their first date, to memories of their blissful married life. Slightly more time could have been spent on developing their previous relationship, though it’s understandable why Sucsy chose not dwell in the past, since there is poignant conflict after the accident.
After Paige awakens in the hospital, Leo makes a painful discovery that Paige has no recollection of him or their time together. To Paige, what feels like the present is her experience from five years ago, when she was engaged to another man and pursuing a law degree. Her estranged parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) capitalize on the opportunity to steal her back by offering the only familiarity she knows.
Leo vows to win Paige back from scratch, although he doesn’t realize the difficulty of wrestling her away from the family, friends, and fiancé who were important in her past. As hard as Leo tries to hang onto Paige, he’s merely a stranger. This fact becomes the driving force of drama for the remainder of the film.
Given his narration and the focus on Leo’s attempts to reclaim Paige, it’s easy to see “The Vow,” is his tale. While Leo’s character is overly mopey and sensitive at points, Channing Tatum does an excellent job portraying him. Tatum gives Leo a nervous, puppy dog kind of quality that’s endearing, as well as humor and intelligence revealed through discussions about his passion for music. McAdams is certainly no slouch either, equally convincing as the love struck Paige, as she is when playing the moody amnesiac Paige.
As you might expect, “The Vow” suffers from corny lines you’d predict from a romantic drama like “We’ll always find a way back to each other,” and unforeseeably slow pacing that makes the movie seem long even at 104 minutes.
Aside from these detractors the juxtaposition of Paige’s old life as a yuppie wanna-be lawyer with her new one as a free-spirited hipster artist, poses an interesting quandary: If you forgot the critical experiences that shaped who you are, would you eventually find your way back? The film’s answer isn’t crystal clear, but it leans more toward ‘Yes’ than ‘No.’
My Grade: B-