The question of how fate and faith impact us is the story behind the story of "The Vow." Based on an autobiographical book by Kim and Krickett Carpenter with this same title, the film changes the core message of the book from one of Christian faith to one of fateful "moments of impact." The underlying tragedy that occurs is told in both, when a head injury costs a young wife her recent memories of her relationship and marriage to her husband. But rather than divorcing and trying to find their love once more, the real-life couple kept their vows to each other and to God and found their healing within their marriage. This core difference reveals the inability of the film makers to understand the worldview of persons of faith when they choose instead to rewrite history to match their limited experiences. This causes the film to be reduced in depth and causes us to wonder what the real story could have been.
The novice director of the film is Michael Sucsy, who has experience in television but this is his first feature film. There are four writers, two who have only written for television, Jason Katims and Stuart Sender, while Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein worked together to write "He's Just Not That Into You" and "Valentine's Day."
The couple in the film is Leo (Channing Tatum) and Paige (Rachel McAdams). Meeting serendipitously in the city of Chicago, they quickly fall in love. Their ability to accept one another's unique personalities and abilities provides the foundation for a creative and passion-filled love and marriage. When a snow-storm accident causes the trauma to Paige, she reverts to her high school memories and interests, unaware of the woman she had become in the intervening years. This makes Leo a stranger to her.
The journey they begin at that moment is made even more fascinating by the question of identity. Is Paige only the sum total of her experiences, the memories of which are now lost, or is she still the same person who had chosen to leave behind her demanding family and self-absorbed fiancé and will do so again? This question is not easily answered and provides the tension of the tale.
Why we stay faithful to the people to whom we have pledged our faith is also an underlying question of the film. If we wake up one day, either from an automobile accident or a loss of love and feel that the other person has become a stranger, do we divorce or keep our vows and seek to fall in love once more? The answer to that question reveals the values by which each of us makes these life-changing decisions.
"The Vow" is a romantic tale with love being shown to be a powerful force in our relationships. However, commitment to our vows and shared faith are equally powerful forces at work in lasting relationships but these are not shown, which weakens the film and compromises the telling of this true story.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
1. Leo explains to Paige that they should try dating again to give their love a chance to be kindled a second time. If you were to lose all memory of your husband or wife, do you believe you would fall in love with them again if you were given the chance to start over? Why or why not?
2. What is your understanding of a vow? Is it a commitment that you make until feelings change, or is it a commitment in which you work through the changing feelings of life? Why do you answer as you do?
3. The realization that Paige would make the same choices again in relation to her family, but this time she would not cut them out of her life entirely, shows that she has matured from who she was the first time around. Where did that maturity come from if she lost all recent memory? Do you believe her soul could mature even though her mind was unable to function fully? Why or why not?
Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of the Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara. For more reviews: www.cinemainfocus.com.