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The Vow

Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

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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Marie-Rose Durocher: Canada was one diocese from coast to coast during the first eight years of Marie-Rose Durocher’s life. Its half-million Catholics had received civil and religious liberty from the English only 44 years before. When Marie-Rose was 29, Bishop Ignace Bourget became bishop of Montreal. He would be a decisive influence in her life. 
<p>He faced a shortage of priests and sisters and a rural population that had been largely deprived of education. Like his counterparts in the United States, he scoured Europe for help and himself founded four communities, one of which was the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. Its first sister and reluctant co-foundress was Marie-Rose. </p><p>She was born in a little village near Montreal in 1811, the 10th of 11 children. She had a good education, was something of a tomboy, rode a horse named Caesar and could have married well. At 16, she felt the desire to become a religious but was forced to abandon the idea because of her weak constitution. At 18, when her mother died, her priest brother invited her and her father to come to his parish in Beloeil, not far from Montreal. For 13 years she served as housekeeper, hostess and parish worker. She became well known for her graciousness, courtesy, leadership and tact; she was, in fact, called “the saint of Beloeil.” Perhaps she was too tactful during two years when her brother treated her coldly. </p><p>As a young woman she had hoped there would someday be a community of teaching sisters in every parish, never thinking she would found one. But her spiritual director, Father Pierre Telmon, O.M.I., after thoroughly (and severely) leading her in the spiritual life, urged her to found a community herself. Bishop Bourget concurred, but Marie-Rose shrank from the prospect. She was in poor health and her father and her brother needed her. </p><p>She finally agreed and, with two friends, Melodie Dufresne and Henriette Cere, entered a little home in Longueuil, across the Saint Lawrence River from Montreal. With them were 13 young girls already assembled for boarding school. Longueuil became successively her Bethlehem, Nazareth and Gethsemani. She was 32 and would live only six more years—years filled with poverty, trials, sickness and slander. The qualities she had nurtured in her “hidden” life came forward—a strong will, intelligence and common sense, great inner courage and yet a great deference to directors. Thus was born an international congregation of women religious dedicated to education in the faith. </p><p>She was severe with herself and by today’s standards quite strict with her sisters. Beneath it all, of course, was an unshakable love of her crucified Savior. </p><p>On her deathbed the prayers most frequently on her lips were “Jesus, Mary, Joseph! Sweet Jesus, I love you. Jesus, be to me Jesus!” Before she died, she smiled and said to the sister with her, “Your prayers are keeping me here—let me go.” </p><p>She was beatified in 1982.</p> American Catholic Blog It is in them [the saints] that Christian love becomes credible; they are the poor sinners’ guiding stars. But every one of them wishes to point completely away from himself and toward love…. The genuine saints desired nothing but the greater glory of God’s love… <br />—Hans Urs von Balthasar

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