This movie is loosely based on the book The Vow, by Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, about the real-life events they suffered together when a brain injury wiped all of Krickitt’s memories of ever having met Kim, and she found herself married to a stranger. I say “loosely based” because the accident and memory loss is just about the only thing in the movie that accurately reflects the events in the true story.
The Carpenters are devout Christians, and have credited their faith with being the reason their relationship was able to survive the trauma.
“Once I accepted that I was married to [Kim] and I had been in an accident, I just kind of went with it,” explained Krickitt Carpenter to The Christian Post. “I trusted what my parents said and I had wedding pictures and videos, and I turned to the Lord.” (source)
In the movie’s version of events, Paige (the memory-suffering wife, played by Rachel McAdams) can’t rely on her parents’ assertion that she is married to Leo (played by Channing Tatum) because she hasn’t spoken to them in years, and they have never met her husband. This, as well as the eventual reason that comes to light for the estrangement, struck me as an unnecessary over-dramatization of a situation that is already difficult. What screenplay writer thought that a woman having no memory of her husband wasn’t dramatic enough, and needed more family dysfunction added in?
There is also no mention of God or faith in the film, but instead an implication that Paige and Leo are somehow fated to be together and a lot of talk about life’s significant events being “moments of impact.” But the most egregious omission is that there is no mention of commitment in this entire movie! They don’t even mention that perhaps they should stay together because that is what they vowed. The vows from their wedding are repeated three times throughout the movie, (twice in voice-over), but never discussed, never mentioned by a single character. Is that not ridiculous, for a movie calling itself The Vow?!
Leo’s vows state:
“I vow to fiercely love you, in all your forms, now and forever. I promise to never forget that this is a once in a lifetime love and always know in the deepest part of my soul, no matter what challenges might carry us apart, that we’ll always find our way back to each other.”
When Paige wakes up after her accident, she reverts to an earlier form of her personality. She has different tastes in clothes, food, and music. She has different relationship dynamics with her friends and family. But she is still herself. And it would have been perfect for Leo to have said, well, you’re different now but I promised to love you in all of your forms, but he doesn’t. Not that he isn’t obviously still in love with her, but his motivation is to try to make her fall back in love with him, remind her or convince her of their romance, and never in that attempt does his promise factor in.
**SPOILER ALERT** In fact, when his attempts to win his wife over again fail, he divorces her. That is the very, very opposite of keeping marriage vows! Even in a normal marriage when one partner doesn’t suffer extreme amnesia, the key to staying married is not staying “in love.” It’s deciding to keep your commitment, even when you may not like your spouse, even when things are difficult, or when you’re tempted by a person or situation that seems more appealing than your own. You make a decision, and you stick to it. That doesn’t mean marriage isn’t romantic, it’s just realistic sometimes too. And it doesn’t happen by chance or by accumulation of cutesy romantic moments–a long-lasting marriage is achieved deliberately.
Ironically, in this movie the only mention of choosing to stick with a marriage through difficulty is from Paige’s mother, after it is revealed that her father had an affair. Paige is incredulous that her mother didn’t get a divorce, and her mother’s response is,
“I chose to stay with him for all the things that he had done right, and not to leave him for the one thing he had done wrong. I chose to forgive him.”
That’s admirable. It’s scriptural to forgive. (But scripture also allows for divorce in the case of adultery, so this shouldn’t be taken as an example that everyone must follow.) **END SPOILER**
This wasn’t a bad movie–I actually really enjoyed watching it. I love both lead actors and it’s full of cute, romantic little moments as well as emotional, heart-tugging scenes. But it has no business being called “The Vow,” and it’s a shame because it would have been so much more powerful and meaningful if they had just stuck to the source material.