The Vow is “inspired by a true story” of a woman who lost over a year of her memory because of an accident. Of course, “inspired by” is the key phrase. In this case it means the screenwriters heard about the case and thought it was a neat hook on which to hang a romantic movie. Any similarity with the real story beyond the basic premise is purely coincidental.
The good news is that the writers have crafted an interesting story that’s been made into a well done movie. The screenplay by Jason Katims, Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein uses the idea to examine what makes a relationship. If love is essentially a lightning strike, can you make the lightning strike again?
Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum) have been married for four years. She’s a sculptor who is making a name for herself in the Chicago art world, while he owns a recording studio. On their way home from seeing a movie, they’re talking about starting a family. Then a truck slams into their car. Paige sustains a major head trauma and is put into a coma to allow the swelling to recede and the brain to heal. When she awakens, Leo discovers she’s lost five years of her memory. Their entire life together has been erased.
Paige had been estranged from her wealthy parents Rita (Jessica Lange) and Bill (Sam Neill). Now they come back into her life, the estrangement forgotten. Leo’s Paige had been a vegetarian bohemian artist who had attended the Chicago Art Institute. The accident has rebooted Paige’s life to where she was a meat-eating Northwestern law student, and was engaged to Jeremy (Scott Speedman).
Leo is willing to fight for Paige. He insists on her coming home with him to their apartment and the life they’d made together. He hopes that being there will bring back her memories and restore the love they had. But Paige is overwhelmed by this completely unknown life, and she can’t understand how she went from the world she remembers to who she was with Leo.
Rachel McAdams is a winsome actress that the camera loves. She can handle both the wrenching emotions as well as the light moments, such as when she discovers she has a tattoo in the middle of her back. You can understand why Leo would fight for this woman. Channing Tatum’s career has taken off recently, with five films last year and four this year, including the about-to-be-released 21 Jump Street. He’s more of an action actor, and seems at home slugging people. Yet he does provide a hunk factor for the movie, and summons a tenderness that makes Leo’s relationship with Paige understandable.
This is Jessica Lange’s first big screen appearance in 6 years. She’d confined herself to television during those years, including making an indelible mark as Constance in American Horror Story. Sam Neill is his usual, excellent self as Paige’s overbearing lawyer father, though the script does give him a redemptive moment. There’s a nice turn in the movie by Jessica McNamee as Gwen, Paige’s sister, who realizes that Paige has lost something wonderful in Leo.
Director Michael Sucsy had only one TV movie credit before directing The Vow, but it was for the well-received Grey Gardens (which also starred Jessica Lange). He lets the story unfold, using flashbacks to bring us into Leo and Paige’s world at the very beginning so we feel Leo’s loss acutely. Sucsy also does a good job overall in blending shooting in Toronto with the setting in Chicago.
This is a movie to see with a loved one. It helps you realize the complexity of relationships as well as their “pearl of great price” value.