“Vowing” to Start Over

property of Spyglass Ent.


Scientifically speaking, the human brain has right and left hemispheres.  Speaking generally, the left controls logic and reason while the right deals in emotion and words.  Socially, we equate these hemispheres with gender stereotypes; often seeing women as right-brained and men as left-brained.

I am of two brains about “The Vow”.

The male half of my brain despised watching a movie about a sinuously muscular, passionate, patient, music studio owner walking around mostly naked, feeding and nuzzling cats, while fighting for the love of an indifferent woman.


The female portion of my brain enjoyed watching a movie where people had to start their life over from scratch to determine what portions of it were honest and real, or merely affectation and reaction.

“The Vow” is this year’s entry into what has become a yearly American contest to “out Nicholas Sparks” Nicholas Sparks.  In it, a ravishingly handsome Channing Tatum plays an incredibly perfect hipster who loses the affections of his spectacularly talented, and modestly pretty- yet relatable, wife to a bizarre form of amnesia that curiously, and conveniently, affects only the portions of her memory that relate to some very plot-specific details of the movie.

The left-half of my brain can gladly report that I found the movie to be incredibly more well-informed about the nature of relationships than the average romantic comedy.

This isn’t to say that there wasn’t a generous helping of foolishness included alongside the good.

The strongest running theme of the film seemed to be the idea that living downtown with the tragically hip is the sign of genuine “living” while the suburbs are a complete sellout, both financially and relationally.  Our pre-amnesia heroine is fashionably awesome with her crocheted sweaters and Lilly Allen bangs.

When she trades in her  Zooey Deschanel approved stylings for blonde highlights and returns to shopping at White House | Black Market, she hasn’t just betrayed the husband that she’s forgotten; she’s really betrayed herself.

Will she return to the wretched “Stepford” life of blueberry martinis and pearls that awaits her in the phony ‘burbs, or can her “Depp meets Timberlake with abs” husband woo her back into a world where vegan art really can defeat the lawyers?

Can a movie this blatantly targeted at late-adolescent female fantasy have any redeeming value?

The right half of my brain gladly reports that this movie was based on the real life account of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, as told in their book “the Vow”.

If you are wondering how closely the movie follows the book, just recall that the promotional materials for the movie never say that the film is an adaptation of the book, they merely state that the film is “Inspired by true events”.

The true events are:

a car accident,
a vow.

The Carpenter’s story took place in 1993, they weren’t hipsters, and they lived in New Mexico.  While the screenwriters removed references to what caused Kim’s devoted commitment to his amnesiac wife, the book details that the Carpenters made it through the difficult 2 years that it took for them to fall in love again because of their relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Both of us know unconditionally we would not have made it through this ordeal without the Lord being in the center of it all,” -Krickitt Carpenter

What the screenwriters didn’t remove was the Gospel-saturated truth that we can’t ever get back the things that we’ve lost, we can only build something new in their place.

Anyone who has ever broken up with a lover, and then gotten back together again knows that a successful reunion is only possible when we let go of the notion that we are going to “get back” to the time when our relationship was good.

We have to build something new, because the old one failed for a reason.

Ignoring this is what leads to couples breaking up over and over again, hoping that they won’t run into the same problems, while driving towards them at full speed.

The human halves of my brain report that the message of love as a choice or commitment, not a fleeting feeling or failing memory, was what made the film a worthy representation of the Carpenter’s experience.

The husband’s grace-filled pursuit of his wounded bride is something that doesn’t only have a difficult job finding screen time in our theaters, it has a hard time finding it in our hearts as well.

It’s the same story that Christians live out day after day.

As the movie ended, the theater I was in expressed a collective sigh of dissatisfaction at the ending; everyone was pulling for things to get back to the way that they were before the accident.

Much of our lives are spent in laments over spilled milk that never amount to anything but demanding that we go back to “the way things were”.  In a sad irony, it’s actually this backward orientation that keeps us from moving forward in attempts to build something new and better.

I’d like to encourage you to
join with the Carpenters,
and their right-brained screen counterparts,
in the process of new creation.


3 Responses to ““Vowing” to Start Over”

  1. Kimberly Kyllo February 22, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    LOVE!! My daughter and I went and saw the movie…she is 16 and LOVED it! I was yawning and letting the “left side of my brain” do the thinking! Love the perspective that to build something new and better is…simply that. Leave it all behind grabbing a drink new and fresh from the well that never runs dry and stale. Thanks again for another good one! : ) Sharing~

    • Jon February 22, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

      Thanks Kimberly, I bet it was a great night together!

  2. Karina Olson February 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    If only every couple that had to start over had the luxury of amnesia to help. So many homes today face the challenge to keep marriage together and the true events are:

    long past newlyweds,
    a trainwreck in the relationship,
    minds that are all to capable of recalling hurts or betrayal,
    the same vow.

    As the product of a home whose parents had an opportunity to ditch the vow, I never cease to thank them for surrendering their disappointment, fleeting feelings and previous failings to Christ, to preserve our family. Because of my parents willingness to see love as a choice and commitment I live with the greatest security and joy a person can have as they see in their marriage the clearest image of the love of Christ and the Church. (God’s love for each of us)

    Here’s hope and Prayers for every couple who chooses to make God’s grace the impetus for their fresh start on a new creation. It’s not an easy, or immediate process, but I think I have over 15 witnesses in our family alone who would assure any couple struggling through… IT IS SO WORTH IT!!!!

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