11 February 2014
I finally got to see The Vow a while ago. My sister was looking for rom-coms and has been on a streak since the weekend (we watched Bridget Jones’ Diary and A Lot Like Love, two movies I will never get tired of, let me say). C. apparently had a copy of this on her hard drive, so I thought, okay. I remembered your letter about this.
Since I am always interested in memory, I thought the premise interesting, even if not entirely original. I mean–people change and not change all the time. But what happens if a big chunk of your life disappears just like that? To lose a part of yourself that was vital, that part that you have discovered you can become, and be?
I think possibly the most important insight in the story is the protagonist rejecting the idea of an “old me” versus a “new me.” I liked how Rachel McAdams’ character says, “There’s just me.”
Perhaps a half-hour in, my sister posited that before the accident, Paige must’ve chucked her old life, moved to the city and, having found her new sense of freedom, proceeded to become a wild thing. That this wildness must’ve been repressed in the presence of controlling parents and a too-perfect family. In short, it’s rebellion: the classic leave-law-school-for-art dilemma.
I said, is it, really? I countered that that’s who Paige really is–the artist, the sculptor, someone who allows herself to laugh and love. My theory was that she wasn’t happy with her life before, and sought to make a change–something that doesn’t involve people imposing their dreams on her. Perhaps her parents were trying to shape her into something she’s not, and she’s finally realised it, so she moved out to try and free that part of herself that has been struggling because of a lack of a support group.
When I noticed that I may have been speaking about myself, I thought it was time to shut up and just watch the damn movie. I can’t help but bristle, but–why does art/writing/creativity always have to be the villain when it comes to some people?
But let’s get back to something I found worrying: when that part of you that you have just discovered exists–something that you have just been recently cultivating, taking care of, nourishing (the timeline in the story was five years)–is gone suddenly, your brain having erased it, does it leave a space, an emptiness, a hole to let you know that something was once there? I mean–of course there’s a physicality to it that can’t be ignored. But I am talking about how, if you are alone, if you have no one in your life to witness those past few years–who can say you’ve changed at all? How can you trust yourself again? Or, how will you ever know how much you have betrayed yourself, with no memories to rely on?
The presence of the husband in the movie kind of solves the dilemma, which is why, in the end, I feel that the story could’ve been something more. I mean, I’m glad that Paige went through similar steps all over again–sort of a restart (but do we ever really get that?). I just have this nagging feeling though–would she have sought this path if there wasn’t someone like Leo in her life who told her that “this is who you are”?
I wanted to see Paige confront her situation more, instead of denying and hiding from the knowledge that five years of her life is missing. I wanted to see her struggle to piece it all together–at least more than just laying out stacks of photos on a table. I wanted to see her question the pieces themselves, and how they fit. If they fit. I wanted to see the people around her wrestle with the idea of how a person can change. How that doesn’t necessarily mean shedding skin and leaving it behind, as if a snake, or trees during fall. How instead it could be like peeling layers, as if an onion.
I wanted to know, too, if identity is tied to memory, or circumstance. If the things we do makes us who we are, or if it’s the people we love (or leave behind).
It’s a sweet story, but I can’t help but echo Leo (somewhat)–the movie made me feel things; I just wish that it did a lot more (plot-wise) to earn my emotions. Don’t get me wrong–I cried, of course. I think, as I grow older, I am becoming a major weeper. It seems I cry at everything these days.
But that doesn’t stop me from asking questions, and wanting to shake the movie by its shoulders, demanding for more.
P.S. I definitely loved the studio, and the sculptures! It was the kind of studio I would’ve liked for myself someday.
P.P.S. When Leo said that Paige used to lock herself all day in the studio, that she gets so immersed in her work that she loses track of time, that he has to come get her–I remember what you said in another letter, how Andrew finds you and brings you back. I wish I have someone like that in my life, too.
P.P.P.S. Don’t you think it’s curious that Paige works on sculptures of trees? I think it’s because in her life she is also trying to grow roots. (But that’s just me overreading again. Trust me to overread a movie with a score of 29% on Rotten Tomatoes.)
P.P.P.P.S. What do you think of Leo’s ‘moments of impact’ theory? “A moment of impact whose potential for change has ripple effects far beyond what we can predict. Sending some particles crashing together, making them closer than before. While sending others, spinning off into great ventures, landing where you never thought you’d find them…”
P.P.P.P.P.S. I liked the vows that they exchanged. Color me romantic, or maybe it’s because I came from a wedding last weekend:
Paige: I vow to help you love life, to always hold you with tenderness and to have the patience that love demands, to speak when words are needed and to share the silence when they are not, to agree to disagree on red velvet cake, and to live within the warmth of your heart and always call it home.
Leo: I vow to fiercely love you in all your forms, now and forever. I promise to never forget that this is a once in a lifetime love. And to always know in the deepest part of my soul that no matter what challenges might carry us apart, we will always find our way back to each other.
P.P.P.P.P.P.S. The wedding in the art gallery reminded me of one of my favourite films: Bande à part, in which the characters were laughing and running through the Louvre.