THE VOW (12A): On General Release Friday 10th February
There isn’t a Nicholas Sparks movie out this year, so fans of overtly sentimental tear-jerkers might want to take a look at The Vow. It sees a very-much-in-love married couple Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Sparks veteran Channing Tatum) who have their lives turned upside down when they’re involved in a car crash.They wake up in the hospital, but while Leo escapes with a few minor scrapes, Paige ends up with retrograde amnesia – she can’t remember anything about the last four years, including her own marriage. Desperate to rekindle her memories, Leo decides that his only recourse is to make his wife fall in love with him again.
As far as plot devices go, it’s hard to trump one more hackneyed than “selective amnesia” but turns out that Paige hasn’t just forgotten her love of Leo; she’s also forgotten why she decided to drop out of law school to become a free-spirited artist in the big city too.
Their lives are painted in the broadest of brush strokes – Paige’s parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) are conservative caricatures; her liberal friends conducted their wedding in an art gallery and one of them wore a hat (a hat!) to the service. Her previous relationship with Leo is characterised by overly cutesy displays of affection – he delivers care packages to her at work that he watches her unwrap while standing in the rain and leaves messages written in blueberries.
Thankfully the sensitive performances keep The Vow a little grounded and prevent it reaching unbearable levels of sugary excess. Rachel McAdams in particular is great – struggling with being a stranger in her own life but Tatum makes a surprisingly effective and emotive lead – coming to terms with the fact that the woman he loved may well be gone forever.
The usual expected and predictable plots inevitably raise their heads – an ex-fiancée, a buried family secret which resurfaces – but, refreshingly, the ending eschews the expected dawning light of realisation which would have pitched it overboard into Lake Schmaltz.
It’s hardly cinematic gold but for a weepy and surprisingly sweet love story just in time for Valentine’s Day, you could certainly do a lot worse.