Review: The Vow (2011)

Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum) are happily married and very much in love. When a car accident puts Paige in a coma, she wakes up without any recollection of her relationship with Leo. Doing his best to cope with the unfortunate situation and escalating distance between them, Leo battles obstacles (an ex-boyfriend and possessive parents) to remind her of the love they once shared in a bid to win her back.

Predicated upon the complexities and emotional resonance contained within the extraordinary events, The Vow, for the most part, breaks from the typical mould of a romantic comedy. Though screenwriters Marc Silverstein and Abby Kohn (Parenthood’s Jason Katims acted as supervisor) aren’t exactly sure what to do with the material, or how deep to play the weighty issue of memory loss, they at least allow for the actors, McAdams and Tatum, to bring as much of themselves to their roles, which adds a much-needed layer of believability to the film.

It all feels too half-hearted, though, to make a lasting impression and differ far from the contrivances of the genre. With every interesting hint at a break-through in terms of delving deeper into the interesting topics on hand, we’re spoon-fed tiresome sub-plots, annoyingly one-dimensional supporting players (Scott Speedman does a rubbish job as Paige’s ex-fiance) and an over-the-top existential voiceover that adds nothing to the proceedings. The writers seem more interested in pleasing their target audience than appealing to a wider market, thanks in no small part to the attention paid to Tatum’s bare bum and glossy abs.

Still, Michael Suscy directs with honesty, avoiding the temptation to add a Hollywood sheen and offering up some well-captured Seattle landmarks that do well to accentuate the growing distance between Paige and Leo. The performances are what makes The Vow stand out, though. McAdams and Tatum’s involvement adds welcomed depth and honesty to the narrative, mostly through their realistic chemistry. Both are familiar with romantic comedies, but their characters here are allowed more room, enabling McAdams and Tatum to get a tighter hold of what their personas are about, and what exactly they’d do should this situation actually happen.

While it’s certainly not game-changing, The Vow is serviceable verging on intelligent filmmaking. Thanks to unobtrusive direction, thoughtful performances and a fitting, and thankfully never over-the-top, soundtrack, it never becomes offensive or a complete waste of time and investment.

This review was originally posted in New Empress Magazine.

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