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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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Peter of Alcantara: Peter was a contemporary of well-known 16th-century Spanish saints, including Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross. He served as confessor to St. Teresa of Avila. Church reform was a major issue in Peter’s day, and he directed most of his energies toward that end. His death came one year before the Council of Trent ended. 
<p>Born into a noble family (his father was the governor of Alcantara in Spain), Peter studied law at Salamanca University and, at 16, joined the so-called Observant Franciscans (also known as the discalced, or barefoot, friars). While he practiced many penances, he also demonstrated abilities which were soon recognized. He was named the superior of a new house even before his ordination as a priest; at the age of 39, he was elected provincial; he was a very successful preacher. Still, he was not above washing dishes and cutting wood for the friars. He did not seek attention; indeed, he preferred solitude.</p><p>Peter’s penitential side was evident when it came to food and clothing. It is said that he slept only 90 minutes each night. While others talked about Church reform, Peter’s reform began with himself. His patience was so great that a proverb arose: "To bear such an insult one must have the patience of Peter of Alcantara."</p><p>In 1554, Peter, having received permission, formed a group of Franciscans who followed the Rule of St. Francis with even greater rigor. These friars were known as Alcantarines. Some of the Spanish friars who came to North and South America in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were members of this group. At the end of the 19th century, the Alcantarines were joined with other Observant friars to form the Order of Friars Minor.</p><p>As spiritual director to St. Teresa, Peter encouraged her in promoting the Carmelite reform. His preaching brought many people to religious life, especially to the Secular Franciscan Order, the friars and the Poor Clares.</p><p>He was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Remember the widow’s mite. She threw into the treasury of the temple only two small coins, but with them, all her great love…. It is, above all, the interior value of the gift that counts: the readiness to share everything, the readiness to give oneself. —Pope John Paul II

 
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