The Vow is the story of an urban hipster couple, sculptor Paige (Rachel McAdams) and music producer Leo (Channing Tatum), dealing with the trauma of memory loss as the result of a serious car accident, and how said memory loss affects their relationships with each other and the people around them. The film was directed by Michael Sucsy and loosely based on a real-life couple, Kim and Krickitt Carpenter -- wife Krickitt never fully regained her memory, but the couple are still married and have two children. The premise is promising and surpasses the usual formula of boy-meets-girl with its surprising restraint and heartfelt moments.
McAdams shines as a woman trying to recognize herself in the wake of a disorienting experience, and Tatum puts aside his macho persona and gives an impressively heartbreaking performance as a genuinely nice guy who tries to win back his true love. The film does have its weaknesses, like the fact that the only years Paige forgets as a result of her injury are the ones she spent with Leo, and there are a few too many cheesy exchanges, but as far as romantic comedies are concerned, The Vow manages to reach a certain level of emotional depth that is rarely achieved in the genre.
The story centers on a young couple whose relationship is put to the test when a car accident seriously injures Paige and leaves her in a coma. When she wakes up with severe memory loss, she doesn't remember Leo and, despite his efforts to make her fall in love with him again, she doesn't recover her feelings for him. To complicate things further, Paige believes that she is close to her estranged parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) and that she is still in love with her ex-fiancé Jeremy (Scott Speedman). Although Leo's friends and family advise him to move on with his life, he decides to fight to win back Paige's heart.
Initially, the story is intriguing and touches on the capacity of the human memory to be both fascinating and horrifying. It also builds to a climax that's very romantic and moving, yet the film is a little lopsided in the sense that the story is largely told from Leo's point of view, while it downplays what Paige is going through. Her tragedy is the more interesting aspect of the movie, but screenwriters Abby Kohn, Mark Silverstein, and Jason Katims displace the human-interest potential with a gooey rom-com sensibility.
Still, this syrupy romance will appeal to the legions of Rachel McAdams fans who loved her in The Notebook, as well as fans of Channing Tatum who loved him in Dear John, which makes them both graduates of the Nicholas Sparks school of romantic comedies.