Loosely inspired by a true story, this would-be weepie stars Rachel McAdams as Paige, a young artist who wakes from a coma with no recollection of her husband (Channing Tatum) – or the last five years of her life. The only things Paige can recall are that she was engaged to Jeremy (Scott Speedman) and close to her wealthy parents (Sam Neill and a scene-stealing Jessica Lange). But more has changed in five years than Paige can bear to confront.
This raises interesting questions: how would you feel if you woke up and found yourself living a life you never expected, with a haircut, wardrobe and social scene you hated? What if the man you’re married to is a stranger? But the script rarely digs deep enough to become a serious meditation on change, character and circumstance. Much is seen from the point of view of the husband vowing to win back his wife, so distancing this story from its target market (women, if you hadn’t guessed).
Still, Tatum is charming and both stars make decent use of the script’s gently humorous potential. As a superficial look at a weird situation, it’s reasonably diverting. But the narrative errs on the side of slowness and emotions are kept at arm’s length – no sign of the heart-wrenching romance key to McAdams’s turn in The Notebook and Channing Tatum’s in Dear John: both based on Nicholas Sparks novels. On the one hand, this makes The Vow a more sensible, realistic film – but it may leave expectant romantics with hankies to spare.