a solemn promise…

I didn’t know it was possible for me to want to go outside (during this Australian summer) in order to thaw out. But that’s just what happened after I went to the movies last time, and forgot to bring a hoodie or a pashmina scarf to huddle into. By the time we left the theater, my friends probably thought I’d been crying during the movie, because I kept blowing my nose. In actuality, it was like when you’re outside on a cold winter day, and your nose feels like it’s probably dripping, but since it’s numb, you can’t quite be sure. Hence, the blowing of the nose, and the presumption that I’m in tears. In fact, as good and as enjoyable as the movie was, I didn’t shed a tear. So there.

The movie I saw was The Vow, starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum. I knew, going into this, that it was based on a true story, and what the main plot was. But because of how it was advertised and filmed, I kept thinking I was in a Nicholas Sparks movie. Which is why I continued to be pleasantly surprised, as bit by bit, the story was revealed.

[Spoiler Alert, if you haven’t seen The Vow yet, don’t read any further!]

I’m not saying that I don’t like movies based on Nicholas Sparks’ books. I’m just picking on his movies as an example of how Hollywood films “chick flicks”. And while I think that a chick flick of that sort can be very enjoyable, they can be and should be so much more than eye candy. Like most women out there, I saw The Notebook, and loved it. But only later, did it begin to register that I was so caught up in the romance, that I was blinded to the characters’ morals.

Ok, I’m going off on a rabbit trail for a bit. I will come back to The Vow, eventually.

In The Notebook, you are immediately touched by the beauty of James Garner’s character looking out for the woman he loves, even when she no longer remembers him. And as he tells her their story, you’re delighted by young love and the mischief the two of them get into. But then they’re apart, and she begins to find love with another man, and agrees to marry him.

Of course, then Noah comes back into her life, and she has to choose between the two. Everybody remembers the iconic fight and kissing-in-the-rain resolution that ends up with the two of them in bed, and she wonders what she’s missed by not having sex like that before. But while you’re caught up in the romance, you’re missing something. She is lying and cheating on her fiance. Has anybody ever realized this?

Sure, all movies nowadays seem to tell you that love is the only important thing, and you should never say no to it. Well, they’re talking about passion and lust, not love. Love is an action, an unselfish one, that has nothing to do with mushy feelings, but everything to do with looking out for the best for the other person.

Yes, I believe that sex should be saved until marriage, and only for the frame of marriage. Whether you agree with that or not, the definition of true, everlasting love, is not found in the selfishness of cheating and lying. Allie is cheating on her fiance, and considering that she promised to marry him and love him forever, she is now living a lie, by her actions. And I despise a cheater, especially one who denies that they’ve done anything wrong. When the story finishes, nowadays, I’m glad that Noah and Allie stuck with each other, through thick and thin… but I feel sorry for the man she ditched, just because she couldn’t keep her clothes on with another man.

Let’s return to The Vow, shall we? I like Rachel McAdams, but since she stars in The Notebook, you can see why it would be easy to mix up the two movies, right? And though I’ve never seen Dear John, I’m aware that Channing Tatum was in that, so there’s some more Sparks movies for you. I also think that Channing Tatum is gorgeous, but when it comes to him, I’m most familiar with seeing him in She’s the Man. And the two leads may have a great scene in the kissing booth, but when I think of him, all I can hear is “I like cheese.”, in that confused tone, as Viola attempts to coach him on how to talk to girls. That movie’s a scream because of Amanda Bynes, by the way, and because it’s based on Shakespeare.

When the lights come down on The Vow, I know some of what’s coming, but not exactly how the story resolves itself. Leo and Paige are a young married couple that get into a car accident, and Paige loses her immediate memory, including every memory of how she met and married her husband. We see numerous flashbacks of loving moments in their married life, before the accident, and every girl will wish that she was in Paige’s shoes. Their wedding in the Art Institute is beautiful, and yet funny, when they’re almost caught by security.

I want to congratulate someone on this film. Either the couple it’s based on, or the screenwriters, or someone. Because if they’d made it like every other chick flick or rom-com out there, I wouldn’t have liked it so much. It must have been almost irresistible to fall into the usual cliché moments in the story, but I think they escaped a lot of them. So, congrats to someone.

Leo is crushed by his wife’s not remembering him, and the possibility that her parents may take her away from him. He could’ve turned to another woman in this story, just for a one-night stand, but he didn’t. Where was Hollywood? Paige only remembers her previous fiance, but she doesn’t remember dumping him. She does kiss him, almost accidentally, but there’s no bedroom scene with these two, either. Paige’s sister may seem a trifle flighty, but when her future husband expresses nervousness over their upcoming nuptials, the film doesn’t turn it into a fight scene. This would have been the chance to show this man wasn’t really wanting to get married and that his future wife was a witch, just out for money and the “achievement” of marriage, or the approval of her parents. Instead, Leo’s character uses some wisdom that he’s used from the music world, and leaves both almost-newlyweds smiling.

So, if you can’t have the snarky sister who’s really a bitch, when no one can see her, what do you have left? The parents that are trying control your entire life, of course, and who would rather you went to law school than art school. Paige doesn’t remember why she left home and avoided her family for so long, and we find out later that Leo knew, but didn’t tell her. Because despite the things that the Thorntons did wrong, he didn’t want to drive her away from her parents, just to get her back. He wanted to win her love again, the right way.

As for her parents, her dad (played by Sam Neill) wants to separate Paige and Leo, even suggesting Leo divorce Paige. Leo knows the truth about the past, and walks away from a fight, though he calls Mr. Thornton a hypocrite and a coward, first. Paige discovers from a former friend that he friend and her father had an affair, and her friend apologizes. Upset by not being told, Paige confronts her mother.

This is my favorite scene, bar none. Yes, the romance is beautiful, but I think this scene has something even better for the viewer. Mrs. Thornton tells her daughter that she didn’t want to lose her again, and Paige wants to know why she didn’t leave her father. Her mother says that “chose to stay with him. I chose to stay with him for all the things that he did right, not for the one thing he did wrong. I chose to forgive him”.

That’s powerful. Because forgiveness in the face of that type of betrayal should be impossible. But love is an action, and this woman acted in love. Love for her children, and the hurt that their separation would put them through. Love for her husband, and all they’d had together before his fall from grace. This is true love in action, and the willingness to fight for a marriage, even in the face of something that most of us would crumble under.

If you are reading this, and you’ve been in this situation, I am not judging anyone for what they did, as a result. Only the love of Christ would enable me to forgive, if I was put into that situation. I am only saying this is a type of strength, love, commitment, kindness, and forgiveness that you will rarely find in movies nowadays. And I applaud the filmmakers for allowing it to reach the screen, without editing it out.

Paige has heard about all the things that her own husband did right. And now, though she doesn’t remember her love for him, she has to consider that she could choose to get to know him again, to love him, because of how he loves her, and has taken care of her for so long. And she does go away, to find out how she is again. In a way, she really did have to “find herself”, because she doesn’t remember who she had become in the last few years. But eventually, she’s ready to go back and fall in love with her husband again.

During this whole time, Leo does his best to show her his love, in action, even when he doesn’t feel like it. Sure, he snaps and yells, now and then, but don’t we all? He puts up with embarrassing situations with her family, drives her places he doesn’t want to be, and encourages her by showing her what she did and loved before. When she changes, he takes it in his stride. He loves her, so he’ll grow with her and love her as who she is, no matter what. Isn’t that what he vowed to do? A solemn promise, a vow, an oath, whatever you want to call it. He made that vow, and he’ll keep it.

I don’t think I’ve done this subject justice, but I tried. I hope many people go see this movie, whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not. This movie has some good things to say about the true meaning of love, and I think everyone needs a dose of that, all year round.

One thought on “a solemn promise…

  1. I haven’t/won’t see either film – no time, to be honest. But I would say that the human condition is much more varied and complicated than “chick flicks” could ever convey. They’re not really a good moral baramoter by which to measure society.

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