LOS ANGELES—On the surface, the story behind The Vow seems more like a daytime soap opera than a major theatrical release. After four years of marriage, a couple has a car accident. The husband escapes with minor injuries but the wife loses her memory. She doesn’t know him and can’t remember anything about their relationship or mutual friends.
Surprisingly, the movie, which opens on February 10, is based on the true story of a New Mexico couple, Kim and Krickitt Carpenter. Director Michael Sucsy decided to invite the couple onto the set to meet the film’s stars, Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum. In a Los Angeles hotel room, McAdams says that the Carpenters’ story was actually more remarkable than the movie’s script, which sees her character, Paige, reject her husband Leo’s pleas to return home with him.
“Krickitt woke up and was told, ‘This is your husband,’ and she said, ‘Okay, let’s go for it.’ This was in the early 1990s and they are still together. They have a little boy and a little girl and it is mind-blowing, that level of commitment. It was incredibly inspiring to me, particularly when I would think, ‘This is a real Hollywood movie and yet it is based on a more amazing story.’ ”
The biggest difference between the stories is that Paige lived another life prior to meeting Leo. She had come from a wealthy family and was engaged and attending law school when, for reasons she cannot remember, she fled to Chicago, enrolled in art school, became a sculptor, and got married. When she awakes from her coma, she embraces her former life, of which she has fond memories. McAdams says that her research showed that choosing the life they remember is not uncommon for amnesia victims but that eventually they find their way home. She says that in order to find the real Paige, she had to play her as two separate people.
“What I found most interesting at the end of the day is that when people suffer from brain traumas like this, the tape is erased. Yet the victims will find their way back to the lives they have forgotten, nine times out of 10. They will take the same career path and go back to similar kinds of people. So playing two different people who amalgamate into one is fascinating. She comes back to a more whole version of herself, so you layer the two sides of her and come up with something completely different.”
Her choice to go back to her parents is influenced by her wariness of Leo’s insistence that she return to a home that doesn’t exist in her memory. McAdams says that even though Paige understands that she was married to Leo, it is natural that she would reject him.
“The more you remind someone of something, the more they push you away, so the very act of getting someone back makes the chasm between you even greater, which is why he eventually has to let go in a certain way.”
Watch the trailer for The Vow.