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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Vow

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

When I learned that Rachel McAdams was going to play the lead role in what looked to be another tearjerker film about marriage I wondered if the story would be based on a Nicholas Sparks novel such as “The Notebook.” No, this new film is based on a very true story that was told in the 2000 book The Vow: The Kim and Krickitt Carpenter Story by Kim Carpenter.
 
In 1993, ten weeks after this Mormon couple married, they were injured in a terrible car accident. Krickitt, who was driving, was in a coma and when she woke up had no memory of the previous 18 months or so since she had met and married Kim. When Krickitt recovered enough she decided that if she had liked Kim enough before to marry him, she would date him again to see if the spark could be rekindled. It was, and in 1996 they remarried (renewed their vows) and have since had two children. Krickitt has never recovered her memory of those 18 months though her long-term memory, that is pre-Kim, is in tact.
 
In “The Vow” the basic story is the same though the details have been changed and more dramatic tension added. And while Kim and Krickitt are a handsome couple, the megawatt looks and chemistry of Rachel McAdams (Paige) and Channing Tatum (Leo) leave just about everyone else in the dust.
 
Paige and Leo meet by chance at the bank on one fine day in Chicago where they live. Then they meet again at the coffee shop where Paige works, “The Mnemonic”.  Their friendship grows until Leo invites Paige, an artist, to move in with him and his band.  Not long after, in a ceremony reminiscent of the hippy era, they exchange vows at the art museum before being chased out. Over the next three years the couple gets their own place, Paige gets a huge commission for statues, and Leo starts his own recording studio. 
 
Then late on a winter’s night, on the way home on a deserted street, Paige unhooks her safety belt to make out her husband. A snowplow rams their car from the rear and Paige is thrown through the windshield.  When she wakes from a coma, she remembers nothing of the four years she has known Leo. Her parents (Jessica Lange and Sam Neill) appear to take her home but Leo protests since in all the time he has known Paige, they have never even tried to contact her. Leo takes Paige home and they try to make it work, but Paige returns to her parents’ house to try to discover why she left home. She hoped it would trigger a memory that would trigger others.
 
The heart of this story is in Leo’s voice-over narration as he describes his commitment the vow that he made to Paige, and what her vow to him meant. The moral conundrum runs deep here. In a valid Catholic Christian marriage, what are the options for a couple should something like this happen to them? I asked a priest in good standing who served many years on a diocesan marriage tribunal this question and here is what he wrote: “Suffice it to say, for this film, that from a Catholic perspective the woman’s decision to value the ‘forgotten’ but ‘real’ commitment she made and to not just ‘throw that out’ but to value it enough to give a chance to discover it anew is highly admirable and fully in accord with our teachings on the sacredness of marriage.”
 
The most interesting visual motif in the film is the name of the café that appears throughout the film: “The Mnemonic”.  A mnemonic is a mental method to trigger a memory. For example, I was able to recall the letters on a car’s license plate, USC, by linking it to “University Santa Clara”. If you saw the 2009 film “Slumdog Millionaire” you will recall that the main character Jamal (Dev Patel) wins “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” because he connects his answers to people and circumstances.
 
I found the story moving, especially when the Carpenter family is shown before the final credits run.  But the audience at the screening I attended, mostly young women, fell into a group swoon the first time Channing Tatum takes off his shirt.  It’s possible one of the girls may have fainted; I don’t know. He does reveal his derrière, albeit briefly, as well.
 
The film could have gone deeper into the emotional and moral dilemmas but chose to skim these by creating a more dramatic backstory for Paige and her family and maintaining the eye-candy appeal of the lead actors.
 
Leo’s devotion to his marriage vows is reinforced throughout, as well as his respect for Paige, and Paige’s faith and courage, regardless of any other seeming flaws in the film, creates the overarching meaning of “The Vow”.

If you were Leo (Kim) or Paige (Krickitt), what would you have done? Lots to talk about here.


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