"The Vow": Love Story Moves Despite Cliches

A young married couple, Leo and Paige (Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams), are rear-ended on a snowy Chicago night. He's all right, but she comes to with no memory of the past half-decade. These have been years of significant change. Paige remembers being engaged to another man (Scott Speedman) in law school and preparing for a suburban life much like that of her parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) in exclusive Lake Forest. Now she's married to a man she doesn't recognize, estranged from her posh upbringing, and working as a sculptor. With no memories to ballast her to Leo and their life, Paige gravitates back toward the past that she'd jettisoned. Although making the least of its premise by simplifying Paige's dilemma, The Vow offers an unobstructed view of charismatic performers, playing people working earnestly at a rather impossible situation. Bullnecked Tatum is about as convincing a studio nerd as Steve Albini would be as an Abercrombie model, but his shy manner around his stranger of a wife is touching—throat-clearing line readings that break down to butting his head against the immovable object of her mental block. McAdams, meanwhile, brings a bright bemusement to her part, which refines Paige's crude lifestyle choice, as though, having lived two stereotyped identities, she's able to find the joke in both. Closes with the Cure's "Pictures of You" and a chorus of sniffling.

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