My wife, Merry, and I saw the film, The Vow last week. In two recent Marriage Memo columns I wrote about a wife’s decision to divorce her husband after he had suffered a brain injury, and now a popular movie offers a similar story.
In the film, a young married couple is involved in an automobile accident, and the wife, Paige (played by Rachel McAdams), loses five years of her memory. In her mind she’s a single law student in a close-knit family; she has no memory of how she became a sculptor, stopped communicating with her parents and sister, and then met and married Leo (Channing Tatum). The plot focuses on Paige’s attempts to rediscover herself and Leo’s efforts to keep their marriage intact.
It’s an interesting film, but it left me feeling it could have been much better. (Note to parents: It deserves its PG-13 rating for some language and sexuality.) Descriptions of the movie led me to believe that the story was about a husband fighting heroically to save his marriage by dating his wife again and winning her back, but the plot fell short of that.
The movie ends with tantalizing postscript: some photos of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, the real-life couple whose story inspired the film. And when I looked further into the Carpenter’s story, it seemed much better than the film.
The Carpenters had been married only 10 weeks when their accident occurred. Krickitt was in a coma for four months, and when she awoke she had lost all memory of the past two years, including her entire relationship with Kim.
“When I came round from the coma, I had no memory of this whirlwind romance,” said Krickitt in a recent article. “My parents told me that I was married to this man, and they wouldn’t lie to me, so I knew that I must have loved him deeply. But I had no feelings for him at all, and as hard as I tried, I could not conjure up those feelings.”
Kim’s efforts to help Krickitt recover were hampered by her hostility and sudden mood swings—common aftereffects of brain damage. In their book, Kim wrote:
Unpredictable described our whole relationship. What was her real personality now and how much of it was getting to the surface? How well was she communicating what she thought and felt inside? Were we seeing the new real Krickitt?
Maybe she knew how to behave, knew how to act with me, how to control her anger, how to be affectionate and forgiving, but couldn’t put her knowledge into practice somehow because of her injury. Or maybe she had no idea about any of that. I didn’t know what Krickitt was like spiritually and emotionally anymore, and didn’t know whether her true self—whatever that was—was represented in her actions, or whether there was a disconnect between what she thought and what she did.
Despite their struggles, the Carpenters remained committed to their vows, and never seriously considered divorce. The film never mentions their Christian faith, which was central to their determination to make the marriage work. But the Carpenters have had many opportunities to make this clear in interviews connected with the movie’s release.
On the Today show, for example, Krickett said, “I chose to love him. I chose to love Kim based on obedience to God, not on feelings, because all my feelings were wiped out. … You have to stay committed. You have trials in your life, and you have to keep persevering.”
In another interview, Krickett said, “Slowly, over time, my love did grow for Kim deeply, but it was never a fluffy, gooey, falling-in-love feeling again. I know that is what everyone wants to hear, but that is not what happened the second time around. My heart didn’t skip beats; I didn’t feel swept off my feet. I would love to have felt that, but it isn’t the truth—I made a choice to love him.”
Naturally, that’s not what Hollywood wants to show in a romantic movie. But that’s the story I wish The Vow had told.
Copyright © 2012 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Click here to read more about Kim and Krickitt Carpenter and here to listen to a FamilyLife Today interview.