FILM REVIEW: The Vow (12A)

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For some brides, a fairy-tale waltz up the aisle turns out to be a day they would rather forget.

Californian sportswear sales rep Krickitt Carpenter did precisely that.

A little over two months after her big day, Krickitt was involved in a car accident that resulted in retrograde and post-traumatic amnesia, erasing all memory of the previous 18 months, during which time she had met her husband Kim and pledged herself to him.

Confronted by a stranger at her bedside, Krickitt rejected her spouse but Kim remained steadfast during the rehabilitation process, determined to honour his vows, even if his wife ultimately rejected him.

This heartbreaking story of love undone by outrageous misfortune provides the creative spark for The Vow, directed by Michael Sucsy.

Using the Carpenters’ ordeal as a dramatic framework, screenwriters Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein and Jason Katims explore the emotional maelstrom that consumes a young couple, when a collision on the snow-laden streets of Chicago threatens everything they hold dear.

Anchored by strong performances from Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum, Sucsy’s film eschews slushy melodrama in favour of a sweet and endearing courtship riven with frustration and regret.

Leo (Tatum) glimpses Paige (McAdams) in a queue and flirts with her, using his charm and good looks to secure a memorable first date.

They fall in love and marry, and Leo pursues his dreams of running a music recording studio while Paige exercises her artistic flair with sculpture commissions around the city.

One snowy night, the couple is involved in a car accident.

Leo survives relatively unscathed but Paige suffers massive trauma to her head, resulting in memory loss.

As Paige comes to terms with her condition, her estranged parents (Sam Neill, Jessica Lange) exploit her misfortune to make amends for past mistakes and woo her back home.

However, Paige decides she should stay with Leo, hoping this might jog her fractured memory.

Leo tries everything to earn Paige’s love again but she looks at him with distrust and gravitates towards her old flame Jeremy (Scott Speedman), who is the last man she can remember with affection.

The Vow will appeal to hopelessly romantic fans of The Notebook, which also starred McAdams and espouses the same unswerving belief in enduring love.

Tatum and McAdams are an attractive pairing and they kindle a smouldering screen chemistry in early scenes, which provides us with a compelling reason to root for reconciliation in adversity.

Neill and Lange enjoy small but pivotal roles while Wendy Crewson plays a touchy-feely head injury specialist, who solemnly advises Paige, “If you don’t open yourself to life, you’ll always live in fear of the past.”

A caption at the end of the film returns briefly to the true story of the Carpenters, adding a bittersweet note to the fictional characters’ valiant efforts on love’s battlefield.

By Damon Smith

:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 6/10

Released: February 10 (UK & Ireland), 103 mins