The leads were both in Nicholas Sparks bestseller-turned-movies that won legions of fans amidst couples. Rachel McAdams starred in The Notebook, while Channing Tatum was the eponymous hunk in Dear John.

But how do they fare as a just-married couple facing a tough test – McAdams’s character Paige finds her husband Leo, played by the usually expressionless Tatum, an absolute stranger, when a car accident robs her of her short-term memories?

For that is the premise of The Vow, based not on another Sparks fantasy, but true events of Kim Carpenter and his wife Krickitt.

Released as a pre-Valentine’s Day movie in the United States, where it set a new record for box-office domestic sales of about US$11.6 million (S$14.6 million) on Valentine’s Day alone, it has finally made its way to our shores.

Just as he does in the well-shot trailer of the movie , Leo begins to reminisce the beginning of their relationship, talking about “moments of impact”, and scenes of the past and present are entwined. It gives off vibes pretty similar to Adam Sandler’s 50 First Dates, where Sandler tries to woo Drew Barrymore again daily after discovering her short-term memory loss.

Tatum’s exhaustive voiceovers of every single detail, like his droning on about finding yourself through significant moments,were much too draggy, and the inevitable reunion of the couple makes the film a little obvious.

The movie is almost over-sentimental as Leo tries his best to overcome other daunting obstacles, like Paige’s parents insistence in bringing her home – being skeptical, having never met him prior to the accident – preventing him from helping her overcome her retrograde amnesia. Paige’s slick ex-fiance Jeremy, played by the deliciously handsome Scott Speedman, also attempts to weave his way back into her life. This causes Leo much distress, as Paige’s last memory was being engaged to Jeremy.

The effortless glamour of both characters makes it difficult to swallow that a seemingly ideal couple would ever have such a painful misfortune inflicted upon them.

But nevertheless, Tatum’s surprisingly tear-jerking performance shows he’s a lot more than just a looker, and makes the surreal quality of Leo’s dedicated, passionate love truly touching. His deeply devout desire to motivate his wife to remember him does appear to give a glimmer of hope to ‘bleak’ futures of women who feel that there are no ‘good guys’ out there.

One might furiously blame Paige for trying so hard to seek answers regarding her actions in the past, instead of yielding to Leo’s relentless, obviously sincere attempts to work with her to restore her life and routine as it was before the unfortunate accident. But take a moment to reflect: if you were to wake up one day and not know why you dropped out of a renowned law school or why you ended up marrying your husband/wife, would your reaction be so different from Paige’s?

This is where the film succeeds. It keeps you hanging on, gritting your teeth while you cheer for Leo, who’s clearly the underdog with his less glamorous lifestyle and job as a recording studio owner.

The more cynical amongst us will probably wonder how such a disastrous car accident could leave not even a single scar on the faces/bodies of the two alluring stars. More importantly, if Paige had emerged with deep facial lacerations, slurred speech, and there was no threat of an ex-lover coming to reclaim his lost trophy, would Leo would still cling as determinedly to his wife and his Vow?

Though the overall flavour of the film is endearing, director Michael Sucsy has weaved appropriate amounts of sorrow into it, making his first on-screen film a winner amongst women who need a good cry. Not an easy feat to accomplish, The Vow was a good balance of fittingly somber moments which induced a sadness that tugged on everyone’s heartstrings, and subtle but powerful snippets of lightheartedness to let us know that there is hope amidst the trials and tribulations of life.

Although it does have its fair share of mushy clichés, like their classic coincidental meeting of two lone travelers in an airport, it’s ultimately an emotional yet cathartic movie for those of us who can relate to an eros love, or those who are still on the exhausting journey of looking for one.


[Photos © 2011 – Sony Pictures]


Movie: The Vow
Rating: 3/5
Opens: Apr 5
Duration: 104 minutes
Language: English
Age Rating: PG-13
Genre: Romance, Drama

Director: Michael Sucsy
Cast: Rachel McAdams, Channing TatumScott Speedman