© Sony Pictures Releasing GmbH

Für immer Liebe (The Vow)
U.S.A./Brazil/France/Australia/U.K./Germany 2012

Opening 9 Feb 2012

Directed by: Michael Sucsy
Writing credits: Jason Katims, Abby Kohn, Stuart Sender, Marc Silverstein, Michael Sucsy
Principal actors: Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Sam Neill, Scott Speedman, Jessica Lange

Leaving a cinema one snowy Chicago night in March, a young crazy-about-one-another couple are stopped for a kiss on their way home, when a commercial truck skids into the rear of their car. A utility pole stops the car; the wife flies through the window, and at the hospital doctors put her in an induced coma. When she finally awakens she is well on the road to recovery, but she does not remember the past five years. Blindsided, her husband – and with due diligence – sets a course to reawaken their love in her heart. This film could easily have skidded into a whimpering over-the-top washout. Instead, the story neatly mixes light-hearted romance and moving drama, centering on moments that influence one’s life, opposites, and the tenacity of love.

The chemistry between Rachel McAdams as Paige and Channing Tatum as Leo carry the film. Flashbacks are inter-cut: she a free-spirited art student, he a musician, and their almost “love at first sight” romance; fun with friends; their Art Museum, albeit not authorized, wedding; their life together, as helpmates – he now owns a recording studio and she is a recognized sculptress – lovers, and friends. The present-day situation is contradictory: she is conventionality personified, turning to her establishment parents Jessica Lange and Sam Neill and sister Jessica McNamee; is drawn to ex-fiancé Scott Speedman, and eats meat. This lifestyle does not embrace freewheeling Leo. Paige is slipping into the existence she alienated herself from when she fled to live in the city five years earlier. When a chance encounter joggles her memory of the dark deed at the core of her familial estrangement, she realizes she has to discover who she is.

The Vow is based on a real-life story, directed by Michael Sucsy and co-written with Jason Katims, Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein. The emotive balance is good and the production values are high; all the actors give poised performances. Leo tells us at the beginning, “…moments of impact that turn our lives upside down actually define our lives” – wait for the very end to learn how the crash defined Leo and Paige’s life. (Marinell Haegelin)

Second Opinion

The cut-off release date for Academy Award entries is December 31. Director Michael Sucsy had another deadline in mind for The Vow, February 14. In America romantic comedies are traditionally released shortly before Valentine’s Day, giving couples the opportunity to ignite or rekindle the spark of their own love stories. The Vow is such a movie. Based on a true story, Paige (Rachel McAdams) has five years of her life deleted from her memory as the result of a car accident. She wakes up from a coma in the hospital thinking mistakenly her husband Leo (Channing Tatum) is her doctor. Paige reluctantly agrees to go back home with this stranger Leo; however, nothing he does or they do together seems to jolt back her memory of their life together. Eventually she moves back to the security of her parents’ home and seeks the company of her former friends, including her ex-fiancé Jeremy. Leo is determined to win her back and keep his marriage vow, “I promise never to forget this is a once in a lifetime love.”

The plot is predictable, but fortunately quite subtly executed. I have to warn the ladies that Channing Tatum is much too much of a handsome hunk to also be so sensitive, loyal, and caring. But perhaps he personifies an ideal and perpetuates the Valentine’s Day illusion that keeps romantic love alive. (Pat Frickey)

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