What would you do if the person you love couldn’t remember you? How how hard would you try to get them and their memories back? Sounds kind of like science-fiction right? Well it’s not, The Vow is based on real events and it’s actually a pretty inspiring little story. Moreover one that should not be written off at first glance. True the timing of this release can be considered Valentine’s Day fluff, but look past where the film lands on the calendar this year and you’ll find a story that is stripped of pretentious candy coating and an example of what true love is really all about.
Leo and Paige have been married for 4 year and are just as madly in love as the day they met. He owns a recording studio and she is an artist. They each have an quirky demeanor and it’s that oddity that attracts them to each other. Driving home from a movie one night the two are in a car accident and when Paige awakes, she has absolutely no memory of her husband or their life together. When days, weeks and months go by without the slightest recall things become only more frustrating when her long absent family gets involved in her recovery. They end up creating more distance between Leo and Paige as she struggles in deciding whether she wants to be with the husband she’s supposed to love or to get back to familiar life she left behind years ago.
As it was mentioned above it behooves us to clear up any confusion right up front; The Vow is not 50 First Dates and it’s not a Nicholas Sparks novel. These days with ads coming at us from all directions our sales resistance is at an all time high. It’s easy to judge marketing campaigns, scratch that, misleading marketing campaigns and write off whatever movie or product is being pushed. But refreshingly, The Vow offers something legitimate that if people take the time to explore, will find it time worth spending. Also that “based on true events” tagline is always enough to bring out the curiosity in every naysayer.
From the brim to the core, The Vow is a story about deep seeded love as well as uncomfortable heartache and that leaves little to no room for cutesy disingenuous material. Channing Tatum, as Leo, narrates a significant portion of the film and by doing so he creates emotional bookends to get the audience on board. He’s a grieving man and it kind of helps humanize the story when you can hear his thought process. But as Tatum powers through any so-called wooden parts of his performance, the one element that give the story its immense credibility is without a doubt Rachel McAdams. They say the acting is really reacting and, a lot like wearing makeup, the trick is to make it look effortless and non existent. Scene never feel scripted and every time she bites her lip, exhales in frustration you feel her confusion as if you were experiencing it yourself. It’s not an entirely glamorous role and yet she’s still magnetic and adorable.
McAdams makes it easy to feel for Paige. But you also start to dislike her as she slips further away from Leo and back to the lifestyle she once ostracized herself from. Little set backs abound and the couple continue to drift further and further away from each other. Family drama never ceases and in a film like this they easily become the wolf in sheep’s clothing. The Vow has assembled a very talented supporting cast that is, unfortunately, given less time than they deserve. Jessica Lange and Sam Niell bring a presence with them but they are kind of limited to the stern and overreaching parent types. Their influence only enhanced due to their wealthy status and lifestyle.
Now it’s agreed that Channing is not a seasoned thespian but he still has some decent chops. You could almost see that in 5 to 10 more years he can start to embody a Kevin Bacon style or manner of acting. There’s a perseverance to Leo that really wins you over and while Tatum’s range is limited the determination is still heartfelt. He brings an equal amount of emotion which is perfectly paired against McAdams and allows the two to showcase rather palpable chemistry. It also helps ratchet the emotion when the story, thanks to the heavy-handed Daddy drama, takes its sour turns. Things aren’t at all predicable in this story and if it looks like you know where it’s going, you’ll be surprised when everything unfolds so I won’t spoil any of it for you here.
The story may sound a little grim and overly dramatic because it isn’t a rom-com (I can’t tell you how refreshing that it to see in cinemas these days). But, it’s not a sour love story, like, well Love Story and there is a lot of fun to be had. The flashback scenes early on and interspersed in the film display Paige and Leo’s oddball lifestyle and affection which is enjoyable. There’s also some baby step bits to her initial recovery which includes some obligatory “this is what Paige normally does” routines that do have comical outcomes. But steering away from making this yet another quirky love story was the right direction overall. In addition to being based on or inspired by a true story the real-life struggle helped elevate the actors in their performances and in turn the actors elevate the story.
Again don’t let the fact that this is being released close to Valentine’s Day deter you from something that may appear overly and seasonally saccharine-drenched. It’s a realistic story about love and loss with plenty of enjoyable and worthwhile themes. That and the fine acting makes The Vow a real winner any day of the calendar year.