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The Vow Review

What would you do if the one person you loved, the one with whom you agreed to spend your life, forgot every memory you made together in the blink of an eye? That’s the struggle of recording studio owner Leo (Channing Tatum) and sculptor Paige (Rachel McAdams). The two are madly in love with each other, but after a night out, a car accident injures both of them, one more severely than the other. Leo makes it out with a few bruises and cuts but no permanent damage. Sadly, the same can’t be said for his wife. She suffers severe brain damage, and her reference to her husband as “doctor” reveals that she’s consequently lost a large portion of her memory. The Vow glances at Leo’s attempts to bring Paige’s memory back, a job that’s already difficult but even more so with an intrusive set of parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) and her ex-fiancé Jeremy (Scott Speedman). With painfully attractive A-listers McAdams and Tatum leading the way, a plot that’s sure to snare couples of all ages, and respected actors of yesteryear filling various supporting parts, The Unauthorized Nicholas Sparks Movie could work as an alternate title for Michael Sucsy’s The Vow. The film doesn’t tackle any new ground or even begin to touch excellence, but it’s an enjoyable enough effort to get its point across despite the syrupy melodra. Both leads are very familiar with light romantic dramas: Channing Tatum led Dear John alongside Amanda Seyfried, while Rachel McAdams headed up the more well-known and widely praised The Notebook. However, they still make something fresh out of their parts in The Vow. For instance, McAdams boasts the difficulty of having to convincingly play the artsy, hipster-lite “new” Paige along with the aristocratic “old” Paige, while also throwing an amnesiac confusion into the mix. Consequently, she must have the most heartfelt and loving of affections for Tatum, then shut down any kind of chemistry after the traumatic incident that sets the film into motion. Fortunately, McAdams, being the ever-capable screen presence that she is, takes to the challenge seamlessly, combining each of these singularly difficult tasks into an ultimately amazing performance. It’s becoming easier and easier to take Tatum seriously as an actor, and The Vow serves as yet another step towards him realizing his potential. While he’s still not a master of expressiveness, the dopiness for which his acting is often criticized feels natural for this particular role, unlike the woodenness that he’s cringingly conveyed in previous films. His convictions to woo his wife once again are genuine, and he brings them to life in a surprisingly impressive way. However, despite commendable efforts from Tatum and McAdams, The Vow as a whole falls into some unfortunately dull territory. Instead of deafeningly loud silence that should accompany intimate moments and make them more, you know, intimate, we’re treated to clichéd musical cues that are as wincingly awful as “Take note of my reaction!” close-ups that take away from the situations at hand instead of reinforcing them. We’ve also got the family set up as the antagonist once again, and while some interesting situations arise from that – including some great albeit brief work from two-time Oscar winner Lange – the convention has overstayed its welcome. Tatum and McAdams overcome the lack of romantic substance, but don’t make up for the overabundance of fluff. It’ll certainly delight the Nicholas Sparks crowd, and though the dramatic tension often feels trite, The Vow conveys more powerful emotions than one might expect thanks to its leads.


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