I finally broke down and watched a movie that several of my daughters were raving about. “The Vow,” starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum, chronicles a young couple’s tumultuous recovery from a car accident that nearly killed both of them. Paige suffered a brain injury that left a five-year hole in her memory, including the romance and marriage to her husband, Leo.
Paige tries to live with her husband, who is now a stranger, but she instinctively wants to return to the life she remembers. She decides to reconstruct her life from the familiar, even divorcing Leo, who has patiently and tenaciously held on to his love for his wife and hope for her recovery. Strangely, she begins making the same decisions she had made years earlier until she ends up back in the same place she was in when she first met Leo. The movie ends with Paige reconnecting with Leo and the possibility of a new relationship.
The movie takes liberties with the real-life story upon which it is based. Kim and Krickitt Carpenter met in 1992. Their year-long courtship culminated in a wedding. Ten weeks later a car accident left Krickitt with a memory loss of the last 18 months of her life, including Kim.
But the real couple did not divorce. Kim and Krickitt possess a deep faith in Jesus and Kim says,
“I made a vow before God and that, to me, was a promise to keep.”
Eventually a social worker suggested that they begin dating again, to restart their relationship. They had a second wedding ceremony so that Paige would have a memory to celebrate. Twenty years later, they are happily married with two children.
While the movie draws attention to Leo’s faithful love for Paige, in spite of frustration and rejection, it does not suggest that he was compelled by his vow to her. In fact, their wedding took place in Chicago’s Art Institute with a few friends, one of whom acted as a legal official to pronounce them married. Leo’s narration throughout the story emphasizes fate and the effect of the impacts in life. The title has little to do with the movie, but everything to do with the real story. Maybe the movie should be titled “The Impact” to coincide with Leo’s worldview.
Hollywood has great difficulty packaging and marketing the Christian faith. I suppose that a wife remaining faithful to her wedding vow, even when her brain and emotions cannot corroborate that vow, seems unrealistic in a culture of relational roulette. Never mind that this is the real-life story, not the fictional revision on the screen.
Audiences can sympathize with Leo’s faithful love better than they can identify with Krickitt’s faithfulness to a vow.
Why would someone keep a vow to someone for whom they have no emotional connection? Most couples today would agree that when the emotions are gone, the marriage is dead and prolonging it is torture.
The Carpenters’ story does not lack the human emotional component. It transcends it. Kim admits that Tatum accurately portrayed his intense frustrations in the early months of Krickitt’s recovery. He even confesses to a period of bitterness towards God that tested his faith and love. It was his faith in Christ that sustained him. It was Krickitt’s faith in Christ that enabled her to live as a married woman to a man she did not know in honor of her vow. Their faith provided the framework for them to discover a new love for one another as they had to reboot their life together.
Hollywood also fumbled the Christian message in the movie, “The Blind Side,” the story of a Memphis family, the Touhys, who adopted a homeless black teenager, Michael Oher. Oher went on to become an All American lineman for Ole Miss and a first round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens.
Set in a city where racial boundaries are still visible, a white family ignored the looks and defied the warnings when they determined to extend the blessings God had given to them to a traumatized young man. They explain that they do not view their act as extraordinary, because it was part of the flow of their lives already. God had given both of them a compassion for those in need and an ability to help others, which they did routinely.
Although Hollywood did not truncate the Touhys’ faith, the movie minimized it. The Touhys live out their faith in Jesus every day in ways they consider ordinary. Leigh Ann Touhy said in an interview, “That’s been one of our common passions, is that we feel like we should share what we have with other people. I think that we would have shared with anyone. Michael was the not the first person; he was just the first one whose story got told.”
Ironically, Hollywood still loves a story of redemption. It still gravitates to the plot where a damaged person experiences healing and renewal, usually through a greater love that makes personal sacrifices for the loved one. The supreme story of redemption resides in the Christian story. Hollywood seems content to live within the shadows of that story rather than the real-life story itself.