Movie Review: 'The Vow,' Not Much of One?

Spoiler Alert

How do you look at the girl you love and tell yourself it's time to walk away?

You don't, hopefully.

But that's the question that our main character Leo Collins, played by Channing Tatum, wrestles with in the new movie "The Vow" as he chooses to either hold on to his wife who no longer remembers who he is or let her go, back to the only life she can remember.

Inspired by a real life couple from New Mexico, "The Vow," directed by Michael Sucsy, explores the relationship between Leo and Paige (Rachel McAdams), a young, madly in love married couple who experience a devastating car accident while returning home from a movie one day.

When Leo wakes up, he finds himself in the hospital, with his wife in a comatose state after having suffered a severe blow to her head.

Slowly "weaned off" a coma for whatever medical reasoning the doctor gives, Paige finally regains consciousness only to discover that she's forgotten about five years of her life, which happens to include the part where she met, fell in love with, and got married to her husband Leo.

The last thing she does remember? Asking a waiter at the Macaroni Grill if they had toasted ravioli. Oh and attending law school and being engaged to another man named Jeremy (Scott Speedman). Just a teensy tiny problem for the newlyweds.

Now cue the estranged, overbearing, and caviar-eating parents who magically reappear into their daughter's life; successful attorney, ex-fiancé who's still in love with the woman who left him five years ago; the music-making, bacon-loving, free spirited husband who's just trying to win his wife's heart, and memory, back and you have yourself ... the broken vow.

This may or may not be the best Valentine's Day movie, just as a warning.

Much of the movie is spent with Leo chasing and re-chasing Paige, seen either through their first interactions with each other pre-coma or exchanges together, post-coma.

Trying to rekindle the sparks that initially led his wife to fall in love with him in the first place, Leo works hard to reignite the flames and keep his vows albeit all the setbacks i.e. memory loss, disapproving in-laws, and hung-over ex-fiancé.

I vow to fiercely love you and all your forms now and forever. I promise never to forget this is a once in a lifetime love ... and no matter what challenges carry us apart we'll always find a way back to each other.

Though it's apparent that the actors are committed to their onscreen roles and chemistry – Tatum as charming as ever and McAdams, flirty and fresh – we're not so sure about the actual lovebirds themselves.

Paige and Leo's story, based solely on the film and not the real couple, is sweet at best but not at all a kind of love to be mirrored or modeled after.

Their idea of love and marriage relies largely on emotions, circumstances and "moments of impact," valuing the ever-changing feelings over promises, fate rather than faith and commitment.

The once "I can't take no for an answer" Leo quickly becomes a "let things fall where they may" kind of man when his overflowing affections are not returned exactly the way he had hoped; this is, only after a few weeks' worth of attempts (dramatically reduced for the film perhaps?).

Although it's Paige who suffers the memory loss, making it difficult for her to keep a vow she never remembers making (though fear and insecurity appear to be more of a problem for her than her memory), trials, temptations and seasons of drought cause Leo to forget his promises of marriage as well.

I vow to fiercely love you and all your forms now and forever. I promise never to forget this is a once in a lifetime love ... and no matter what challenges carry us apart we'll always find a way back to each other.

If it weren't for the constant flashbacks throughout the film, we'd forget too, leaving us to question how secure are the vows we once made in times of peace, not suffering? And what do our vows really signify and mean?

Leading theologian and megapastor John Piper previously put it this way: It's a covenant.

The covenant sustains the love, not the love the covenant, he said, rephrasing the words of the famed pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "It is not your love that sustains the marriage but ... the marriage that sustains your love."

"Romance and falling in love is a beautiful thing, and re-falling in love, again and again, is important," Piper stated. "[But] re-falling in love after seasons of pain can be sustained only if you elevate covenant above those affections and romance."

While Leo and Paige might have done a good job creating their vows, they failed in actually keeping them because both built their marriage on current sentiments and affections, not promises.

And despite the film's intended emphasis placed on those vows, via the title and the repeated playbacks recalling the couple's words throughout the movie, it appears as though their vows were actually under-, not over-valued in reality.

Now if promises are all that sustain a marriage, where's the romance in that?

"That's the ground in which the flower grows," Piper shared, where passion, love, affections, and true romance can bloom and flourish over and over again in spite of pain, hardships, and ... memory loss.

So how do you look at the girl you love and tell yourself it's time to walk away?

You don't. You never give up. And you stake everything on "The Vow."

"The Vow" is rated PG-13 and opens Friday, Feb. 10. The film also stars Jessica Lange, Sam Neill and Jessica McNamee.

Watch the official trailer here.

Disclaimer: This review is based solely on the film and not the inspired story or book, The Vow: The Kim and Krickitt Carpenter Story.

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