Let’s call them ‘moments of impact’ – those moments that, when added together, make us who we are… for better or worse. There are moments of curiosity, of adventure, of our first pet, of change, of our favorite restaurant, of sadness… and of course, various forms of love. It’s within these moments that we discover and learn about ourselves. So what happens if those moments don’t exist? (or worse) What if they did exist and you can’t remember them because you’ve lost the last five years of your memory? Inspired by actual events, The Vow tells the heartbreaking story of a young couple in Chicago who must learn to re-explore their love and themselves after a brain injury causes severe memory loss for one of them.
Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum) are driving home on a snowy evening when a large truck slams into their car from behind, landing both in the hospital. While Paige remains sedated to allow for the swelling in her brain to subside, Leo thinks about their last five years together. He thinks about the day they first met in a parking lot, their first date, the day Paige agreed to move in with him… and the unique vows they shared during a romantically impromptu wedding ceremony. These were the moments that made them who they were – friends, lovers, husband and wife. When it’s safe enough for Paige to regain consciousness, it’s soon realized that she doesn’t remember Leo. Much to the disapproval of Paige’s parents Rita and Bill Thornton (Jessica Lange and Sam Neill) Leo insists that she come home in hopes that getting back into her daily routine might jog her memory. But as is mentioned by the hospital doctor: all brain injuries are unique and there are no guarantees. Paige is now a totally different person.
Leo and Paige start what is, at first, a somewhat lighthearted re-learning of the life they once had. Their eccentric house is cozy, colorful and incredibly inviting. Her art studio is littered with the large clay and metal sculptures she’s been working on. Leo remains loving, but cautious and respectful enough to give Paige space and time to explore things for herself. There are moments of humor: not remembering she’s a vegetarian and much to the surprise of her husband, Paige eats some bacon. After getting lost in the city, however, Paige calls the only phone number she knows by heart – her mother’s. Over time, Paige gets frustrated and begins to drift away from Leo toward her parents, a cold and calculating couple. Leo knows about the spotty past Paige once had with her parents… but she doesn’t remember and eventually runs into her sleazy ex-fiancé, Jeremy (Scott Speedman). Leo figures the only way to bring Paige’s memory back is to make her ‘fall back in love‘ with him. But is it too late? What if re-living the moments that made someone who they once were don’t have the same effect on who they are now? How do you look the woman you love in the eye and tell yourself it’s time to leave?
The perfect mix of light-heartedness and heartbreak, The Vow is far from being cliché. Understanding the seriousness of an event like brain injury and memory loss, the humor is just restrained enough to remain respectful, and even a bit saddening. It’s that unique take on this type of love story that is delightfully refreshing. All conversations between Leo and Paige are relatable as so much of it is extremely heart-felt and, at times, chopped up by the occasional glance into each other’s eyes as though trying to figure one another out… and we’ve all been there.
The art direction particularly stood out as the living spaces were direct representations of the characters and the lives they live. Leo and Paige’s house is bright and colorful, made of natural materials and embodied a love for the vintage and quirky. There was a softness and warmth to the light, to Leo’s clothing (a lot of sweaters) and to all the blankets and tapestries throughout the living space. Covered in books, art, plants and a wide multitude of shapes and colors, this is the kind of place just about everyone would like to call home after a long day at work. On the other hand, the Thornton’s are dressed in sterile and cold solids, a relation immediately realized in the ultra-formal environment of their mansion. There is no emotion or warmth from these characters.
Though McAdams’ character doesn’t remember Tatum’s, there’s a great sense of caring that resonates between the two… and yes, Tatum fans will be pleased with his sporadic lack of clothing.
The Vow might have you asking some questions about your own life and the one(s) you love(d). How far would you go to get back the one that means the world to you? Tears will be shed amongst the occasional humorous moments. It’s ok to laugh just as it’s ok to cry, for it’s the total sum of all these moments that make us who we are… for better or worse.