Judge Paul Pritchard hates movies about amnesia for reasons he can't quite remember.
Our review of The Vow (Blu-ray), published May 17th, 2012, is also available.
Inspired by true events, The Vow is a loose adaptation of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter's book of the same name. Only weeks after their wedding, the Carpenters were involved in a car accident, which resulted in Krickitt losing any and all memories of her relationship with Kim. Unwilling to just give up on their relationship, Kim fought tooth and nail to hold their marriage together, despite his wife having no idea of who he was.
Facts of the Case
Following an evening out, Paige (Rachel McAdams, Mean Girls) and Leo Collins (Channing Tatum, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) are involved in a motor vehicle accident when a truck slams into them at a stop sign. Paige—who had unbuckled her seat belt to kiss Leo—is sent crashing through the car windshield, while Leo is left relatively unharmed. The two are rushed to hospital, and Leo is overjoyed when Paige finally regains consciousness, but is soon left devastated when Paige fails to recognize him—assuming he is her doctor.
As Leo attempts to help Paige remember their life together, and thus continue their relationship, he finds himself at odds with Paige's parents and a former flame—all of whom Paige remembers—who plan to completely erase Leo from her life. However, Leo is built of sterner stuff, and is prepared to do everything to hold onto the woman he loves.
It's very easy to take cheap shots at movies like The Vow, but—as much as it may do my credibility little good—I have to confess I found this romantic drama surprisingly entertaining, and not just a little affecting. Perhaps it is the fear that a single moment could rob us of everything we hold dear that does it, but The Vow struck a chord I was unprepared for. Or perhaps I'm just getting old and sentimental?
The Vow is a completely inoffensive experience, yet is never bland. You'll guess the end long before The Cure's "Pictures of You" kicks in to draw the film to a close, but still, the film possesses a charm that ensured I happily went along for the ride. With all due respect to the genre, isn't that about the best you can hope for from a romantic drama?
Inspired by true events it may be, but the rules of Hollywood still apply here, and they dictate that there must be an antagonist against whom our plucky couple must battle. In the case of The Vow it's Paige's parents, played by Sam Neil and Jessica Lange. With their carefully aimed barbs and dismissive tone, the scenes they share with Leo play out as a fight for possession of Paige—something the film duplicates when an old flame is introduced to complicate matters further as poor old Leo becomes the recipient of more dick moves than Ron Jeremy's entire film career. It is very much to Channing Tatum's credit that these scenes actually have any impact, instead of feeling like the cold, cynical attempts at manipulating the viewer's emotions that they actually are. Tatum, an actor I've previously had little time for (though I enjoyed his turn in A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints), is excellent here. He conveys a sense of helplessness and abject devotion that will connect with anyone who has ever loved and lost. Tatum carries much of the film on his shoulders, particularly as McAdams' Paige isn't the easiest person to like, due to her utter mistreatment of Leo post-accident. I mean, this guy is busting his ass trying to help, and she's off lusting after an old high school boyfriend. Dammit, woman, he loves you; try and meet him halfway, and, for God's sake, at least allow him to walk around his apartment with his schlong hanging out without making him feel awkward.
Leo is by far the most rounded character. During the final act, when Paige is reminded of some painful memories—in scenes that are painfully melodramatic—it becomes clear just how empty a role Paige is, which in turn forces one to look upon McAdams' performance in a more positive light.
Romantic dramas rarely deliver decent soundtracks, with the abomination that is Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason surely being the absolute nadir as it attempted to cram as many songs into as few scenes as possible. The Vow, on the other hand, contains an indie-tinged soundtrack featuring the likes of The National, The Cure, Matt Pond PA, and Voxhaul Broadcast that skillfully matches the mood of the film (perhaps that should read "enhances the mood") without resorting to sloppy ballads. The use of an instrumental version of The National's "England," which is sure to lead to an increase in sales of their High Violet album, is the clear highlight—so much so that it appears twice.
Sony's single-disc DVD release features a small selection of extras. Director Michael Sucsy provides a commentary track, which is accompanied by a handful of deleted scenes and a gag reel.
The 2.40:1 anamorphic transfer is extremely hard to fault. The picture is clean, sharp, and packed with detail. Colors retain their naturalness, and black levels add depth to the image. The 5.1 soundtrack is also of the highest order. While it may lack the wow factor of a big summer blockbuster, it handles everything thrown at it with aplomb.
Sure, it's guilty of being overly schmaltzy at times, and features subpar Cameron Crowe (Elizabethtown) dialogue whenever it tries to be meaningful ("I'm going to take you on a little retrospective of us"), but The Vow is solid, and dare I say heartwarming entertainment. Proof that even at its most calculated, Hollywood can still touch us unexpectedly.
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